26th January 2017

Is it time for us to get a dog?

Screen Shot 2017-01-26 at 16.21.13We have a dog in the UK – and the boys love her. In fact, since our holiday home at Christmas, Stanley has mentioned his dog Lily about 30 times a day. He’s even woken up crying her name and has taken to bringing a fluffy dog that closely resembles Lily to bed every night. We miss her too – so this is all a bit heartbreaking.

And next week, we move to a house with a garden – and whenever I mention to the boys that they are getting their very own garden at last, Stanley replies “So now we can get a dog?” I’d love to say yes – especially as there are so many dogs here in Dubai in shelters needing homes, but there are so many other things for us to consider. So when is the right time? And what questions do we need to ask first?

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How much will the dog cost?

It isn’t going to be cheap to add a fluffy family member to our brood – and with mouths to feed, and school fees to pay, and rent to conjur up, we probably don’t need the extra financial commitment. In fact, a recent study conducted by Voucherbox revealed that a dog can cost over £15,000 over a lifetime (that’s nearly 70,000 AED if you are reading this in Dubai). Wowsers. And that doesn’t even count the cost of getting the dog in the first place either (which is nothing if you rehome, of course), but just the day to day cost of food, snacks, bedding, toys, collars, tags, insurance and vet treatments… The list goes on.

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Who will walk the dog?

I keep telling Stanley that somebody has to walk the dog – and whilst he enthusiastically volunteers, obviously we aren’t going to allow a 4-year-old to head off on his own, which means one of us will be waking that dog at least twice a day too. As if we didn’t have enough to do already. And when the weather heats up in Dubai during the summer, I can see us falling out over this. In fact, I recently read that in a study by the insurance company esure, the average family dog causes 2,000 family arguments during their lifetime – and yep, I can believe that.

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How much does it cost to fly the dog back to the UK?

I don’t know how long we are going to be in Dubai – so factoring in the fact that we would have to fly that dog back to the UK if we repatriated is also really important (after all, we definitely wouldn’t be leaving a furry friend behind). And how much would it cost? In a recent feature by The Guardian, Nick Foden-Ellis, Airpets managing director, says it is “rarely less than a business-class ticket for the same route”. And a business class ticket from Dubai to London? Not cheap. And if we did fork out that kind of money, it’d be me riding up the front of the plane…

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Is it the right time?

And of course, the biggie – is it actually the right time to add another demanding small thing to our family? And with a 4-month old baby in the house, I am pretty certain the answer is no. But when is the right time? I don’t know – but I think when she’s out of the toddler tantrum stage, possibly even at school, I may begin to consider it. I’ve had a puppy before – and they don’t wear nappies, they bite, and they can move (fast) – so yep, not yet. Definitely not yet.

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I jest – but the thing is, I am keen for them grow up around animals. I think having pets teaches so much to a child – about responsibility, about love, and ultimately, about loss. We aren’t cat people, so I want my children to have a dog to love, to walk, and to cuddle. But it’s pretty obvious that it’s not happening yet – so Stanley is going to have to enjoy his cuddly dog for a bit longer, at least.

 

 



19th July 2016

Currently Loving – July 2016

It’s been a while since I have written one of these posts, so I thought it was about time for some shopping and entertainment inspiration. As I’m in the UK at the moment (for another few weeks at least), there are a mix of UK and UAE companies this time round. And just shout if you have any queries about stockists or availability…

Currently Loving

1. Mammylicious.com (UAE). Good quality, fashionable, and affordable maternity wear has been a long time coming in Dubai – but all of a sudden, we are spoilt for choice. One of my favourite websites is Mammylicious.com. Not only does the store have a range of stunning maternity dresses (which fit like a dream), stylish tops, comfortable trousers and plenty of nursing wear for when baby arrives, but they are offering Mum of Boys readers 20% off everything on the site until the end of August using the code MUMOFBOYSREADER – which gives me all the more reason to shop… Shop here

2. Jelly Cat (UAE and UK). Both my boys have had Jelly Cat soothers as newborns. Stanley still sleeps with his blue bunny and Wilfred is rarely parted from his monkey – so now has come the time to choose something for their baby sister… I still can’t decide, but I am tempted by this pink bunny with liberty-style floral print inside the ears. Available at John Lewis in the UK and Db Babies in the UAE.

3. Cath Kidston (UAE and UK). I recently picked up this Cath Kidston Foldaway Overnight Bag at the gifting suite of the Stylist ME Social Media Awards – and although I can’t find the exact one for sale on the website anymore, there are lots of other designs to pick from. It comes with a small pouch to keep valuables in and is roomy enough to use as a nappy bag (and is washable and waterproof too). The long strap means I can sling it over the handle of the buggy, making it really practical too. Available at CathKidston.com in the UK and in Cath Kidston, Mall of the Emirates in the UAE.

4. Mumzworld.com Pregnancy Pillow (UAE). Thank goodness for my Mumzworld.com Pregnancy Pillow, which I bought a few months ago online. I am currently separated from it whilst in the UK and it’s not easy – and I can’t wait to get back to its pillowy support. I really recommend this style by Leacho (132 AED). Shop here.

5. Aden & Anais Swaddle Wrap (UAE and UK). I fell in love with Aden & Anais swaddles when Wilfred was born, with giant dimensions, the softest breathable muslin, and beautiful designs – and I’ve always secretly coveted the neon pink star design… Now that I have a little girl on the way, I am definitely snapping it up. You can shop online (with shipping to both UAE and UK) at Melijoe.com

6. Fred & Noah (UK). It’s no secret that I am a fan of Fred & Noah leggings for Wilfred (and I have a few pairs for baby girl already too) – and the latest collection is just amazing. Wilfred has been rocking dinosaurs, whales, stars, and clouds while he’s been back in the UK. I don’t want him to wear anything else! Shop here.

7. Etsy (UK and UAE). I’m a fully fledged Boy Mama for a few months longer – and of course, I always will be after that too, so I adore this T-Shirt from Etsy. Shipped from the US to all over the world, it costs just $19.95. Shop here.

8. Zoomer (UK). Thank you to the makers of Zoomer for sending Stanley and Wilfred this very cool garden ride-on for their summer in the UK. Created by two mums, Zoomers are designed cleverly to be stable, comfortable and easy to steer – we’ve tried a lot of garden toys in the past, but this ride-on is definitely the most stable (you could take it to the park or woods) and the boys love it so much there have been more than a few scraps over who gets to ride it. Lovely addition to Nanna and Grandad’s garden, especially now the sun is shining! They cost £54.95. Shop here.

9. Selfish Mother (UK and UAE). You may remember me wearing a ‘MOTHER’ T-shirt in photos on this blog a while back – and Selfish Mother have just started selling these cool year T-Shirts (with £5 of every sale going to the charity KIDS CHARITY UK). I definitely want a 2012 and 2014 for Wilfred – too cute! They cost £18 each – and although they’re a UK company, they ship all over the world. Shop here.

10. Finding Dory (UK and UAE). We were lucky enough to get a very early release of Finding Dory in the UAE and watched it before we flew back to the UK at the end of the June. We LOVED it. I have a slightly fish-obsessed two-year-old and I knew it would be a big hit – and I wasn’t wrong. Both the 2 and 4 year old were glued to it from the second it started and they’ve been talking about it ever since. It opens in the UK on 29th July – the day we fly back to the UAE, which is a shame as we’d definitely watch a second time. There seems to be a lot of merchandise around too, so that’s his Christmas present sorted! Watch out for the Octopus; he’s definitely their favourite character!

11. Bear Nibbles (UK and UAE). We’ve always got Bear Nibbles in our house – even when that has meant buying in bulk and taking bags back to Dubai in our suitcases! These days you can buy them in the dried fruit aisles of Waitrose and at Ripe Markets in the UAE. And in the UK, we are spoilt for choice, with countless different varieties available in every supermarket – from Bear Claws, to Yo Yo’s, to Dino Paws. And now every multibox box comes with 3 x Alphabet Cards inside to collect. Oh and one packet of these yummy dried fruit snacks counts as one of their 5-a-day, which is music to my ears as they think it’s a treat! Supermarkets nationwide (UK); Waitrose and Ripe Market (UAE).



27th June 2016

Vlog – Hello UK!

This week’s vlog is a shorter one – and it’s all about heading back to the green, green grass of home!

Music:

I Won’t Cry by Monarques
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Mon…
Needle Drop Co. - http://www.needledrop.co/artists/mona…

Sandbox Jingle by Scott Holmes
http://www.freemusicarchive.org/music…
http://www.facebook.com/ScottHolmesMusic

Airline: British Airways - http://www.britishairways.com/travel/…



17th December 2015

5 years as Mrs S – Our Snowy Wedding Day

Tomorrow is our 5 year wedding anniversary – and we will be marking the occasion by spending the day trapped on a flight with a 3 year old and 1 year old. That just about sums up how life has changed in the 5 years since that perfect, snowy day in London – not that we will be complaining about that for a second, as we fly home to spend the next few weeks wearing Christmas jumpers, scoffing chocolates, and wrapping gifts amongst family and friends.

It does give me the perfect excuse to share some photos from our wedding day, which I have never done before on this blog. The photographs are by the insanely talented London-based photographer Rebecca Louise. I fell in love with her reportage style as soon as I stumbled on her website when researching photographers – and she definitely worked for her fee that day, braving blizzards and trudging up hills in snow as high as her ankles.

The snow was beautiful, but it did mean a lot of guests didn’t make it to our wedding day (a handful during the day and almost everyone in the evening). It also meant that our Honeymoon was cancelled as Heathrow grounded every flight, so I did spend a fair amount of time the next day sobbing as our carefully planned pre-Christmas break to New York unravelled. We haven’t  made it to the Big Apple since, but we did end up in Bath for a few days after the wedding (sounds like a poor compromise for New York, but it was beautiful in the snow and we have some very happy memories) and we had our main honeymoon nearly a year later, swapping the location to Thailand (far more accessible from Dubai) when I was happily growing Stanley in my belly and getting ready to be a Mummy.

Before I share the photos, here are a few other details… Our ceremony was in Our Ladye Star of the Sea and reception in the Trafalgar Tavern, both in Greenwich, South East London. Flowers by Rachel Morgan Wedding Flowers. My dress was Suzanne Neville and headdress was bespoke by Rachel Trevor Morgan.

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14th July 2015

Our holiday at Court Farm, Bude, Cornwall

No9RlxryEkDdFUMBH5tntMu6sIX9qudtAMCpGoNjhhEYou know what it’s like when you go on holiday with kids… You book it, sit back and feel all smug and excited for a few months, and then immediately start to regret it when it comes to the packing. So imagine my delight when we booked Court Farm Holidays in Cornwall for the first week of July online – and clicked straight through to a tick list of things we would need for the children.

We chose a cot, a bed guard, a single seater buggy, a highchair, a booster seat, and a box of toys. Had we needed it, we could also have chosen a double buggy, listening monitor, baby carrier, baby backpacks, toilet training seats, and potties for the children. Most items were free of charge to use for the week, whilst others carried a few pounds charge. We were off to a very good start.

Fast-forward a few months and it was time to do the packing. We had already made an order for Waitrose to deliver food to our cottage on the first afternoon, so I didn’t need wipes, nappies, or milk either. It was the easiest packing process ever and made the getting-ready bit so stress-free.

We weren’t disappointed when we arrived either. Court Farm Holidays is based over two locations – we chose the main farm in Bude, North Cornwall. Inside our cottage, everything we had ordered in advance for the children was waiting for us (a proper wooden cot too, no travel cots here!) – along with plastic plates, cups and cutlery, a selection of kids books and DVDs, and step-ups for Stanley to reach the sinks. We were very impressed.

It was the communal facilities that really made us smile though – just outside our cottage was a large indoor pool (complete with a few inflatables and noodles to help children swim); an outdoor playground complete with slides, swings, a trampoline, a playhouse, an assault course, and a shed with table football; a tennis court filled with scooters, cars, pushalongs, and bikes; and a small indoor play area with lots of toys, a play house, and a pool table.

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And the piece de resistance? The farm animals! Every week day morning at Court Farm starts with feeding the animals and collecting eggs at 9.30am. We donned our wellies and made our way through the field with farm owners Kevin or Vicky to feed the pigs (Peppa and Georgie), alpaca (Scratch), goats (Molly and Polly) and all the chickens. This was the highlight of the holiday for the boys – and their smiles as chickens pecked from pots, goats fed bread out of their hands, and pigs snorted as they devoured our leftovers (carried proudly through the field by Stanley in a paper bag) was absolutely priceless.

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After the animals were fed, the children made their way to the chicken shed to collect the eggs, happily grabbing what they could find and delivering back to their parents with delighted faces. The rule is to take one per family, but we were lucky that the chickens were in an egg-laying mood and both the boys carried their eggs proudly back to our cottage (Wilfred, at only 17 months old, was so proud of his egg that he got it back to the cottage in one piece every morning!) They enjoyed their dippy eggs and soldiers every morning, knowing that they had collected the eggs themselves the day before.

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There’s lots to do if you head out in the car too, as there are two beaches just 5 minutes drive from Court Farm in Bude itself (both with plenty of parking) – and as this is Cornwall, an endless choice of beaches, day trips, cafes and restaurants within easy reach.  We enjoyed a day in Padstow eating Stein’s Fish & Chips, a couple of rainy mornings on the beach jumping in puddles, plenty of ice cream / cream tea stops, and (at the end of the week), the loveliest two days playing in the sand in the sunshine.

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Oh and did I mention that the pub over the road (and I mean literally over the road, less than 30 seconds from our cottage) has an indoor soft play area for just £2 an hour. Yes you hear me right – a pub with a soft play area, complete with bouncy castle, ball pit, bikes, soft mats, and climbing equipment. This Dubai expat Mum could hardly believe her luck.

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There are lots of different sizes of cottages at Court Farm, right from cosy one-bedroom cottages to large six-bedroom houses complete with hot tubs in the garden (we didn’t get a hot tub, but this is definitely on my list for our return visit!)

And guess what? The very lovely Kevin and Vicky at Court Farm Holidays are offering readers of Mum of Boys 5% off the total cost of your holiday when you quote ‘Mum of Boys’. The offer is valid whenever you want to make a booking – so if this summer is already busy for your family, you can book ahead to 2016. Find out more or book online on their website – www.courtfarm-holidays.co.uk

It’s also well worth checking out the Special Offers section of the website as there are some amazing deals on there for this summer (including one that saves you over £2000!) Please note that the ‘Mum of Boys’ discount does not apply on holidays that are already discounted.

Enjoy your holiday at Court Farm; I’m a little bit jealous!



17th April 2015

Everything You Need To Know About Shared Parental Leave

If you live in the UK, you may have heard about Shared Parental Leave (SLP) legislation, which came into force on 5th April 2015. This new policy gives eligible parents, partners, and adopters the flexibility to decide who will care for their child in the first year of its life – and when you think about it, it seems absolutely right that we should be able to choose who stays at home with our  own child.

The changes mean that maternity cover can be split between a mother and her partner or the father, giving them the chance to either take time off together to care for their child (beyond the current two weeks paternity leave that is currently available to fathers), or split the leave so that the mother can return to work, allowing the father or partner to spend additional quality time bonding and caring for their child.

And good news for those adopting a child – they are entitled to the same rights as other parents to Shared Parental Leave.

It sounds like an amazing piece of legislation, but quite confusing – but when I saw this infographic by Citrix GoToMeeting, it suddenly all made sense, so I thought you’d like to have a read too.

Shared-Parental-Leave-V3

In partnership with GoToMeeting.

Visit http://blog.gotomeeting.co.uk/



12th April 2015

Stanley’s Bumble Bee 3rd Birthday Party in the UK

Stanley celebrated his third birthday yesterday – and it was the first birthday he’d ever celebrated in the UK with his family and friends. It was a such a treat to see the smile on his face as he danced,  laughed, and ate cake with his family surrounding him – and I thought you’d like to see what we got up to. I’ve shared all the details below of what I bought / what I booked, so scroll to the bottom of the photos and you will discover all the information.

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Details:

Cakes
Bee hive cake and cupcakes designed and made by my talented mum. If you live in the Tunbridge wells area in Kent, she can make your cakes for you. Just contact me to get in touch with her.

Decorations
My friend Leanne had a bumble bee party for her daughter Poppy in January. This was obviously Stanley’s inspiration when he decided he wanted a bumble bee party – so I took his request and ran with it, as it’s such a lovely theme (and I have a feeling it’s the last time he’ll choose something cute like this!) Leanne was kind enough to give me a lot of her leftover decorations, including a table cloth, banners, hats, and twirly decorations that hung from lights. I had a quick research and this is all available to buy on amazon.co.uk

Lunch boxes 
I found this idea on Pinterest and loved it. I made a little packed lunch in a yellow box for each child. Each box contained 2 x sandwiches in the shape of animal faces, a bag of popcorn, a bag of fruit, a bag of biscuits, and a fruit shooter drink. The kids got so excited finding their box and discovering what was inside – and it was the easiest way to prepare for a party. I also found that the children (or their parents!) put their rubbish back in their box so there wasn’t much tidying up to do at the end either! I bought the boxes on eBay.

Entertainment 
We had children at the party between 8 years and 5 months – and I wanted to entertain everyone. But we had just flown back from Dubai, I was working, and looking after the children full time too (as my husband isn’t back in the UK yet), so I didn’t have time to think up party games nor the energy to become the party entertainer. So I asked my cousin who lives in Tunbridge Wells to recommend a party entertainer and she suggested Kelly the Clown.
Kelly was BRILLIANT! She came, set up, then mingled with the children so they felt comfortable. Then we all moved next door into the dining room and she kept the children laughing, smiling and dancing for a full hour. I knew she’d be good as she came highly recommended, but she was better than I even hoped – and every adult at the party commented on how good she was. It’s high energy and a bit nutty, but the children (right from babes in arms to 8 year olds) were transfixed throughout. I loved the fact that she kept singling Stanley out so he felt special – and he loved it so much we’ve had to play Kelly the Clown all day today in the dining room (me Kelly the Clown, Stanley, Wilfred and my sister the audience – yep, we know how to live on a Sunday!) You can find out more and book Kelly here.

Party bags
For the party bags, I ordered some popcorn-style boxes from eBay and filled them with a crazy straw (also eBay), few bags of haribo for the older children or fruit snacks for the babies, and box of raisins. I also ordered foam masks to hand out with the party bags – either bumble bee, ladybird or butterfly. The kids loved these and all left wearing their masks.

I will leave you with this video, which sums up how much the children loved Kelly the Clown. Happy birthday little man – I can’t believe you are three already!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdDmQ5p07ZY&feature=youtu.be



8th April 2015

5 Reasons Why Mums In The UK Are Brilliant

10593322_674980769254160_2070473010_nI come back to the UK a couple of times a year with my children – and these trips home last between two weeks and three months. So I get regular insights into what it takes to be a Mum in the UK.  I arrived here again on Friday and have been busy with the boys ever since – and  as we’ve been out and about, a few things that have struck me about why Mums in this country are brilliant…

(nb: Mums in the UAE are also brilliant! We are brilliant for different reasons and I will be sharing these soon!)

1 – Dressing children in a thousand layers before you leave the house. I have got very used to dressing my boys in two bits of clothing every day – T-shirt, shorts, and we’re done. And when you have a wriggling 14-month old who is trying to evict from the changing table and a stubborn 3-year-old who wants to wear his pyjamas to nursery, this is difficult enough. Mums in the UK, HOW DO YOU DO IT IN THE WINTER?! Vests, T-shirts, tights, trousers, jumpers, coasts, scarves hats, and socks? Don’t even get me started on the socks – I thought these things would be easy, but the simple act of putting a foot into a sock can take me 10 minutes. The toes move! The feet move! I give up!

2 – TV Adverts. It only took five minutes of switching on the TV for Stanley to announce that he wanted a Ninky Nonk train, Play-Doh Burger Machine, and My Little Pony Race Track. I’d left him in front of Peppa Pig, so you can imagine my confusion. Then I focused my attention on the screen for a few minutes. IT’S THE ADVERTS! THE ENDLESS ADVERTS! We don’t have many adverts on the TV in Dubai – and those we have don’t target children, so I was shocked to see how relentless it is. Stanley stared at the TV like a zombie, making a virtual wish list in his mind. Mums do not need this kind of pressure from a box in the corner of the room! Do the TV people not realise that we just want the talking pig?

3 – Mud. Children + mud = big mess. What do you mummies do? Bath them in the middle of the day? Bath them three times a day? Never take them out of the bath? Or is it just that my children, who are far more used to playing in sand, are attracted to dirty stuff like moths to a light-bulb? I don’t know, but I need some time to get my head around mud. The first time Stanley leapt into a muddy puddle in his wellies and slided straight onto his bum, I though it was funny. “Oh he’s just being a boy!” I said, silently wondering how many pairs of long trousers we had left in the drawer (we only own two or three, so we were running the risk of having to rely on pyjama trousers for a few days). Now that it happens every time we go out the door, I don’t find it so funny. I’ve never filled a washing machine and tumble dryer so regularly in my life.

4 – Supermarket Shopping. When I need to restock the cupboard or fridge, I call the grocery store down the road and they bring it to me. This means I don’t have to pile the children into the car, out the car again, around a supermarket, and then back home again – and I will admit that I have got very used to this ‘delivery’ culture in Dubai. Having to go to the shops with the kids in the UK every time you forget a vital ingredient for that night’s dinner (food?) requires serious mum skills. And I guess serious planning to make sure that rarely happens or you’d go a bit bonkers.

5 – Rain. When it rains in Dubai, we go outside and dance in it because it happens so rarely. I think we once owned a rain cover for our buggy, but I have no idea where it ended up. I had a comical moment on my trip home last summer where I attempted to walk a toddler and baby in the rain, holding a plastic sheet fashioned into a rain cover over the buggy and narrowly missing a serious eye injury thanks to the toddler’s umbrella. And me? Well I just got wet. Mums in the UK, I salute you for your rain skills. And I need some tips.



5th January 2015

Goodbye UK, See You Again Soon!

We have had a lovely three weeks back in the UK, but the time has come to fly back to Dubai for another stint in the desert. Being back in the cold, with such a festive feel in the air, was just what we all needed to have a break from the big city – and seeing so many friends and family made it one of the best trips home we have ever had.

I feel a bit heavy hearted about our flight back to Dubai in the morning as I hate goodbyes – but I love Dubai and I am very happy with our life there, so I know my spirits will pick up the minute we see the bright city lights as we travel home in the taxi. I am very excited about 2015. I have grand plans for the year ahead (watch this space) and I can’t wait to see Wilfred grow into a toddler and Stanley grow into a little boy over the next 12 months. We also have a first birthday (gulp) in 3 weeks to plan and look forward to.

I could write an epic blog post telling you about all the things we did on our trip home, but I think you’d get very bored – so instead, here is our trip home in a quick film.

See you again soon UK – we are already counting down the days until we see you again.



27th December 2014

Family Update: Our Wintery Family Photo Shoot

Despite living in Dubai and spending most of our times in flip-flops, we have always loved winter as a family. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s my favourite time of the year in the UK. I love wrapping up warm, seeing frost painted on the lawn in the morning, hiding underneath blankets in front of log fires in the evening, and soaking up every second of the lead-up to Christmas to get into the festive spirit. So having three weeks in the UK at this time of year has been a real treat – and I wanted to do something to remember this time; seeing the boys in their winter warmers, splashing in puddles, and enjoying the festivities.

A family photo shoot was the perfect way to remember our trip home. And when I saw the beautiful  images from a recent photo shoot by Brian at Focused Images of a friend Emma’s family (and hearing that the price was just £80 for 2 hours, plus all the images on a CD) it sealed the deal, I quickly booked him in for a weekend just before Christmas.

Now my husband hates photo shoots. I would have to drag him kicking and screaming into a studio  to get some family shots – so a natural shoot in the park was the perfect way to do it. We had a really fun morning at Dunorlan Park in Tunbridge Wells taking the pictures (in fact, the boys weren’t really aware of the camera, it was just a morning in the park for them). The service afterwards was amazing – Brian ran around delivering my CD, getting the prints done that we had chosen as Christmas presents in the most impressive time (you don’t have to order through him, but they are great prices if you do). I really do recommend him if you want to capture some memories in 2015 – and at just £80 per shoot, I don’t think it comes much cheaper. I think the images speak for themselves, so without further ado, here are the pictures he captured. Scroll to the end for contact details.

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Book Focused Images through their Facebook page here

Photo shoots are £80 for 2 hours of photography. Brian will travel around the Tonbridge/Tunbridge Wells area (you can choose the location). He will also travel further afield for a travel fee, so get in touch to discuss with him.