O5rcB_NXbIeHbJV7JFNcdfqL-vY Mummy From The Heart...

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Hunger - it shouldn't be happening!

Next Friday I'm going along to one of the local Food Bank projects to see how it operates and investigate if I can help out on a regular basis. I know that hunger and poverty is rife in the world, I saw it firsthand when I travelled to Ethiopia with ONE in 2012. I also saw it far closer to my own home when I lived in Hertfordshire and befriended a lady who through a set of crappy circumstances had ended up without enough money to feed herself and her kids.

Since moving to East Sussex I've realised that Hastings is probably an area with a high level of poverty but I never realised how much of a problem it is. Tonight I've been investigating and according to the Campaign to End Child Poverty the level of children living in poverty (and thus hungry) in Hastings across all areas is 31%. When you look at some individual areas the figure is as high as 47% and I kid you not when I say I have a massive lump in my throat as I read that and type this.

I needed to read it too, it is so easy to live a comfortable life and think that everyone else is OK, but they are not and it is up to all of us to make a difference and do something about it and yes that is big and scary and feels like a massive weight but you only have to look at the progress being made in the battle to end world extreme poverty (defined as a person living on less than $1.25 per day for all their needs). In the last 20 years is has been halved and if we continue at the same pace it could be virtually wiped out by 2030 and that is surely something to whoop for joy about.

Taken in Ethiopia. Image Credit - Karen Walrond/ONE
So I choose not to get bogged down and to fall into the doldrums because the problem feels too big but I pledge to help with the Hastings food bank and to chat to people who are using the service and to help them feel valued and heard. But it is not enough for me to just help out locally I also have to keep playing my part in the bigger plan and I'll do that by working with the charities and NGOs that I believe in, like ONE, Compassion, Plan, Save the Children and Tearfund.

I'm trying to stay more up to date with what is going on at the moment, which campaigns are happening, who needs support and what with and also I'm heading to Washington, USA in October for the AYA Summit with ONE. At this meeting I will get to meet a whole host of inspirational women, and just like I was when I went to Ethiopia I expect to be fully humbled and inspired to do more, fight harder and be better. I feel more privileged than I can ever express to have this opportunity, in fact when the email came through inviting me I asked if they really wanted me, surely there were better advocates to spend the cost of the airfare on but it seems ONE believe in me and the people reading my blog and being influenced by my writing and travels. I sincerely thank you readers (friends) for taking the time to take small steps which help us change the world and change perceptions too.

I've never been to America before and I've not been on a plane since my amazing blogger journeys in 2012 but these are not the things that are really exciting me. What is really blowing my mind is the chance to meet some change makers. African women who with the necessary education and tools are making a massive difference within their families and communities. These are the real champions who are slicing the figures for those living in extreme poverty and I pray they impact me and inspire me to keep taking small steps or maybe even to return to the UK and to take a really bold and scary step. Who knows what lays ahead for me...

Can you add your voice and help ONE to campaign for an end to extreme poverty?

If you are not familiar with who ONE are, then please take a look at earlier posts of mine - here, here and here or Liska from New Mum Online interviewed me about ONE and you can read that post. Or go and check out the website. They will never ask you for money, they are an NGO (non-governmental organisation) not a charity, what they require is your support and voice. Can you sign a petition, tweet a message, talk to friends, share on FB or speak to your MP - all those things make a difference when a massive collective of people do them.

I'll leave you with this very short video, I've shared it before but I love it.  It is a bunch of kids talking about why poverty is not our problem!

Disclosure: ONE have invited me to be their guest at the AYA summit in October and they will be paying my expenses to be there. I fully believe in the work they do and I have not been instructed what I must write, I am free to be honest and always am.

If you like what you have read and want to stay up-to-date then subscribe by email for free and receive blog posts directly to your in-box - just click the link Subscribe to Mummy From The Heart... by Email or perhaps you like to keep all your blog reading in one place, if that is the case you can follow me on BlogLovin too!Follow on Bloglovin

Monday, 15 September 2014

Bexhill on Sea - my favourite seaside in the UK

We moved to East Sussex just over a year ago now and there is one place that we go to time and time again. The seaside has always been a place that my husband and I love to visit together, we met by the sea and whenever we needed to get away, it is the sea we always headed to. Even when the whether is bad the cobwebs get blown away and our souls feel refreshed.

It is for this reason that I jumped for joy when I realised we were only about 8 miles from our nearest seaside town. At first I wondered what Bexhill-on-Sea would have to offer us as it is pretty old-fashioned and parts look a little run-down but actually I have grown to love it so much.  I visit here alone, with all my family and with friends too.

As I said before it is quite old-fashioned but in a quaint, times-gone-by sort of way rather than being out of date. It does not have lots of neon signs, nightclubs or arcades like many UK seaside resorts and I think more people that come here are locals rather than holidaymakers and I like that. I can wonder round the town and check out the many charity shops and grab a bargain and then go to the Sovereign Light Cafe for a good cooked breakfast.

In the last few years the promenade has been made over and it is a super flat concrete prom great for walking, running, scooting, dog-walking or bike riding. Unless there is a special event going on it is never that busy and you can walk for miles and miles without any issue. The parking along the sea front is plentiful and free too.

You'll see that the beach is a stony one but when the sea goes out you do get areas of sand and also wonderful rock pools, so lots of beach fun can be had here. You often see people wind surfing, fising or boating.

When it was refurbished some fabulous play equipment was put all along the prom and the kids adore running along and stopping to use the equipment.

One of our favourite places to visit with the kids in Bexhill is Egerton Park, this is just a few moments walk from the seafront and is full of fantastic play equipment. It is one of the best play parks I've seen and great for all ages with toddler equipment, sand play, zip wire and loads of equipment for the older kids. As well as an Adidas gym area, football field, bowls, boating lake and cafe. Also next to it is the Bexhill Museum which has some good children activities during the holidays.

On the seafront is the De La Warr pavilion that hosts loads of local cultural events and has a great art gallery too. You can go on the roof and enjoy the fabulous views and take in the Art Deco architecture. Underneath the theatre are some nice shops, a big tea room with beach front outdoor space and also some dancing fountains that the kids love to play in.

Often for the price of a donation your children can join in with arty activities. Last week Miss E spent an enjoyable hour making a collage and then she added it to the artwork on the wall, as one day she wants to be exhibited there.

Probably our favourite activity as a family in Bexhill is eating and we can highly recommend the homemade gelato on sale at Di Paolos opposite the De La Warr or fish and chips from Marinos or Mini Berthas and of course they need to be eaten with the sea in View. There is some lovely grass space next to the De La Warr which is our eating area of choice.

I used to think the sandy beach at Bournemouth was my favourite UK seaside but Bexhill has stolen that place in my heart and I'm very glad to live here and be able to sit and watch all the sailing boats out at sea as well as my kids having a ball.

Have you ever visited before? What did you think?

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Sunday, 14 September 2014

Five Outdoor Activities for some Good Old Family Fun

Does it take some coaxing to separate everyone from the television? Do your children flinch away from sunlight like age-old vampires? If you’re on a mission to banish the couch potato blues, you’ve come to the right place. Here are five fantastic outdoor activities that the whole family can enjoy together. Warning – resulting fun may be overwhelming.

1. Camp Out in the Back Yard

You don’t have to pack the car to the gills and brave the hazards of communal toilets to enjoy a night under the stars. Pitch a tent right in the backyard, roast some marshmallows over a portable heater and listen to the sounds of nature, as you step away from the comforts of your home. This is an awesome way to introduce the uninitiated to the wonders of camping and a great way to spend some quality time with the family.

2. Scavenger Hunt

With a little preparation, you can create a scavenger hunt that promises to be just as exciting as a treasure hunt led by Jack Sparrow and the other Pirates of the Caribbean. You can confine the scope of your hunt to the back yard, tailor it for a nearby park or use the whole neighbourhood as your playground. A scavenger hunt is a good way for the kids to keep their minds and bodies active as they learn about their surroundings and run about gathering clues.

3. Have Dinner Outside

This time of year is wonderful for bringing the family’s dinner ritual outside. Fire up the grill and toss the footy around while the scent of delicious barbeque fills the air. Set the table as you would inside, light a few lanterns and voila, you have an outdoor bistro fit for a king. If you don't have a large backyard or if you’re a city dweller with only a balcony, a full-sized grill may not be practical. Don’t fret, you can always snatch a portable grill from a place like BBQs Galore and convert your small space into a veritable Shangri-La of grilled food.

4. Plant a Garden

Nothing beats the smell of freshly picked herbs from the garden or the taste of organically grown fruits and vegetables from the backyard. Planting a garden is a wonderful season long project that can involve the whole family. If you were struggling to find a way to make your kids interested in vegetables, nothing instils a sense of wonder and excitement in children like watching seeds they planted grow into mature plants. Again, if you don’t have much space or just have a patio or balcony, you don’t have to be left out. Have a look into container gardening; it's a practical alternative for people who don’t have much space.

5. Turn the Driveway into A Work of Art

With a few pieces of sidewalk chalk, your kids (or your inner child) can turn your driveway into a work of art. Or you can create a veritable wonderland of chalk games like London Calling or Hopscotch. It not only gets the kids playing outside, but it also provides them with a canvas other than the hallway walls for their art.

So there you have it, five easy ways to get your family out of the house and soaking in some much-needed vitamin D. What are some of your family’s favourite outdoor activities?

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Saturday, 13 September 2014

Trying out my Karcher MV3P Vac

This week as part of my position as a Karcher Clean Ambassador I had a new MV3P vac delivered to me and I've been putting it through it paces to see how it performs.

The MV3P is a dry and wet vacuum cleaner that can also be used as a blower and will attach to hand tools as well to automatically collect the dust and debris as you work. This makes the MV3P perfect for DIY users as well as being a generally good vac for around the home. The cheapest I found this model from reputable sellers was £119 from Tesco Direct and I think this is a good price.

The vac comes with a 4 metre cable and 17 litre capacity. It has the power of 1400 watts but is only actually 1000 watts. You need to use a bag inside when dry vacuuming but nothing is needed for wet vacuuming and thankfully the filter is multi-function and can be used for both and then just taken out and washed though when need be. The vacuum head comes with a brush and squidgy blade end for use in both circumstances and it is really easy to switch them over. There is also a crevice attachment that can go on the end for use in tight spaces and when you really can't get into a space (like behind a radiator) you can change the hose to the back hole and use the blow function and get the dust out that way and then vacuum it up.

I found the vac very easy to put together, first you need to push the four wheels in the bottom and this was super easy and then you plug in the hose and build the vacuum handle, which is just a case of pushing them together. The bag inside just clipped on and was completely intuitive which is very good as I never find Karcher instructions that easy to follow if I'm honest. Thankfully their website is good and normally has instructional videos. I also found this great review video from DIY Doctor and whilst it says it is reviewing a different model, having watched it I can see it is the same machine with the same capabilities.

I've only tried out dry vacuuming so far as that is basically what I will use it for. We do not have any hand tools and thankfully there have not been any water leaks but I fully expect the water vacuum function to be very good as even my handy Karcher window cleaner is great at sucking up water spills.

I first vacuumed the girls little playroom/ spare room and it is only small as you can see in the picture. It gets vacuumed fairly regularly but with kids of course it gets messy too but I was astounded to see the amount of hair and fluff that came off that small carpet and was caught in the brush end as well as what went into the bag - just look -

I was super impressed with its cleaning power on hard wood floors particularly, it is an easy and efficient vac to use. On carpets it has excellent suction but is harder work as it feels as if it sticks to the carpet a bit (because of the good suction I assume) and this means you have to work harder and I did not feel as if the plastic long arm would stand up to years of me pushing too hard.

What I love -
  • Multi function, wet and dry vacuuming as well as blower function
  • Easy to set up
  • Light weight for carrying around
  • Nice long cable
  • Excellent suction power, especially for hairs
  • Good value price
  • Excellent storage for all pipes and accessories/ lead
What I didn't find so great -
  • A fair amount of effort needed on carpeted floors
  • The look of it, who wants a bright yellow plastic vacuum?

In all I think it is a great vacuum cleaner, probably better than my Sebo which cost far more. I would happily recommend it, especially if you have hardwood, laminate or lino floors.

Disclosure: As part of the Karcher Clean Ambassador program I have given products to trial and review. I'm not instructed what to write and I remain honest.

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Friday, 12 September 2014

A year in photos (week 31 - 36)

I don't know where the time is going this year but it is just flying by.  It has been an age since I properly joined in with the weekly photo linky, so I thought I better get caught up and then I'm at least in with a chance of getting back on track and completing this year.

I can't possibly show all the photos I want to, so I'll just pick a few from the summer.

Here is Miss E sitting in Bournemouth Gardens, we had a great evening with my brother just wandering around and enjoying hot doughnuts. Just look at her face such joy, this is the kind of photo I need to look at when I need cheering up.

On the same holiday we visited Kingston Lacy and had a great day with my parents.

This is my home, I'll never ever tire of this view.

There was some wonderful opportunities to moon and star spot over the summer, real clear skies -

We had a lovely time in London to celebrate my birthday.

And wonderful beach days at Bexhill on Sea

Then we went away and celebrated dh's birthday at the zoo. The highlight of the day for dh and JJ was hand feeding the lorikeets.

We then spend a few days at Potters Resort in Norfolk and Miss M showed her confidence by going up on the main stage two nights in a row, one night to sing a solo. You'll also see Miss E in the background too as she went up there too and chatted to the host.

On the way back we stopped in Herts and visited the Warner Bros. studio tour. Recognise this house?

And I've had a look through Septembers photos so far and I have to say it is a poor show. I've not taken anything good in the last couple of weeks, I need to sort that out!

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky
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Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Read On. Get On.

I'm really pleased to be able to share with you a case study from Save the Children and their Read On. Get On.campaign which launched this week. Reading is the key to unlocking a child’s full potential and one of the best routes out of poverty for our poorest children. In the UK today too many of our children, including 40% of our poorest children, leave primary school without being able to read well and this sets them up for so many struggles as their life progresses. As the mother of a child who is struggling to learn to read I know it is not always easy but it is so necessary that every child has someone patient to work with them and help develop their love of reading.

Save the children have set a target to ensure that by 2025, every child is a confident reader by age 11. One of the ways they are trying to make this happen is through their Born to read program which works in partnership with other charities and recruits volunteers to work in primary schools with children who are struggling with literacy.  Sara is one such volunteer, have a read of what she has to say about her voluntary role -

“My youngest child had just gone to secondary school and I was rattling around at home when I saw the ad [for Born to Read]. I thought it was a great idea. My own children have been really privileged in their education and their access to books, and I loved the idea of helping children learn to love to read. These days it’s all about tablets and social media, and I think we need to go back to the basics.

I had no connection to the school before this. Beanstalk [in partnership with Save the Children] tries to give you a local school. I was given a choice of two and I picked this one because it is a faith school and it’s something I’m familiar with.

I was really worried before I started that I wouldn’t be able to engage with the children or they wouldn’t like me or I wouldn’t know what to do. My two training days at Beanstalk were just fantastic, really comprehensive, and they give you lots of scenarios. You do some role-play and you get lots of other people’s advice.

When I started, the children viewed me as this teacher figure and they just weren’t themselves. They thought ‘who is this strange person and why have I been picked?’ But then you make it fun for them; we started doing crosswords and we played hangman and we read silly poems. I like to get ones that are a little bit cheeky! And when they realised it wasn’t just serious reading then the barriers were broken down and they really transformed and blossomed.

We work one-on-one, that’s really important. I have three children whom I read with and I come in twice a week and we do half-hour slots. You have to gauge their mood: sometimes they just don’t want to read. Once you’ve got them into a book and they’re on a roll, they want to find out what’s happening, but often at the beginning you have to do crosswords or play a game just to settle them down. Reading doesn’t work if it’s only for five minutes: you need to engage them in the story and the characters. Then the half hour is up and I have to take them back up to the classroom and get the next reader. And the hour and half just disappears before you know it.

It’s about focusing on the children. I don’t think children have enough time when someone is actually just looking at and listening to them, and it makes a really big difference. They love it, they like being the centre of attention.

The children have almost reduced me to tears with the joy and enchantment on their faces. I had one little boy, Ishmael, who was obsessed with a particular football team and I would bring in sections from the sport pages of the weekend newspapers. So we would read that but then the football team started doing very badly in the premiership league and he got really annoyed and didn’t want to talk about it anymore. My youngest son is a similar age so I asked him what he liked reading. He gave me Gangsta Granny by David Walliams, one of his own books, so I brought it in for Ishmael and he just transformed. He runs down the stairs to read with me now and he really wanted to take the book home to finish it during the half term. I was so proud that he began to feel so connected with the book. He began to see that there is a world outside football − a world he hadn’t thought about or been introduced to."

It really warms my heart to read that case study and know some children are being opened up to the possibilities that await them and in case you are not familiar with Gangsta Granny here is a short clip of David Walliams himself reading an excerpt in support of the Read on. Get on. campaign.

Why don't you check out the Read on. Get on website, you can sign up for top reading tips (like I have done), make enquiries about becoming a volunteer for the program and also sign the petition.

Sign the petition NOW
Politicians need to do their bit if every child in the UK is going to be reading well by 11. That's why STC are asking all the party leaders to commit to the goal of every child leaving primary school as a confident reader by 2025. With the General Election coming up next May, now is the perfect time to ask politicians to come on board with Read On. Get On. So click that link above and add your support, it takes seconds and you can even opt out of further communication if you so wish.

If you like what you have read and want to stay up-to-date then subscribe by email for free and receive blog posts directly to your in-box - just click the link Subscribe to Mummy From The Heart... by Email or perhaps you like to keep all your blog reading in one place, if that is the case you can follow me on BlogLovin too!Follow on Bloglovin

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Trying to locate Miss M...

Just a little glimpse at the size of where we live

One of my 7 seven year twins is grounded at the moment. It is ludicrous isn't it? "Where was she going I hear you scream, she is only 7, she should be with her parents" and of course in the main you are right she never leaves home without us but we have a bit of a unique problem. Our home is based in a 220 acre country estate and she considers all the grounds to be her garden. Thankfully she is sensible enough to not go near any of the three lakes but she does wonder off at times and I just don't know were she is.

So in an effort to keep more track of her and to help her understand how important it is for me to know where she is, she is grounded this week and has to just stay in our house or front courtyard. Let me tell you, she is finding this so hard, as a free spirit she wants to travel about, talk to people and go on adventures.

I might just have found the answer to my problem though, as I've been introduced to a new app for your phone, iPod or tablet, it is called Folr and it is a location-tracking application which gives real-time information on where your loved ones are.

Of course this means I'd have to get Miss M to carry a phone with her but really that's not too much of an issue as I have some old handsets and can put a pay-as-you go sim in it. It is not like I need to call her, just find her!

The good news is that Folr is completely free and you can download it for both Android and iOS devices. A quick download and then enter your phone number and you get a pin number sent via SMS (which has proved to be a problem for me as I live in the middle of nowhere I also have no mobile signal and thus trying to use my wifi at home to register with Folr by the time I am off site with the pin code apparently my session has expired, but like I say I know my situation is pretty unique, most people choose to live somewhere more modern!). Once the pin is in, you are away. Adjust your settings to allow Folr to use location settings and then you can add people from your phone contacts to follow. Of course they also need to have Folr installed too, thankfully you can't just follow whoever you want without their permission.

Here are a few screen shots from an iPhone. From left to right - a list of those you follow and their current location, a map pinpointing the particular person you are trying to track (this is the one that will really help me) and you can also track back in history for where a specific person has been for up to a year prior.

I can see a number of good uses for the Folr application in our family, firstly as I've said to track the kids when they are at home in our very large grounds. Secondly for when we go on holiday as a family, very often dh and I will split the kids and go and do separate things and then once we finish we do not know where the other is, this will allow us to quickly find the other and for the family to reunite.

Also, next year JJ starts secondary school and again as we live in the countryside he will need to take a bus from the end of the back drive. I'd feel a lot happier knowing he had a phone with Folr installed so I could see where he was if he happened to be 10 minutes late home or such. Of course I think it would be really important to talk to him about this first and make sure he felt happy as I don't want to come across as too 'Big Brother'. Trust is really important in the parental relationship and especially as they grow into young adults.

I think Folr would be excellent for those who you want to allow the freedom to go out and about but you do have concerns about their safety and where abouts. One of my cousins has severe learning difficulties and there are a few places he is allowed to go but he does sometimes push his luck and go further and then in the past people have taken advantage of him by stealing his bike or getting him to spend money on them. This would allow his carer great peace of mind to know he was only where he was supposed to be. This would also work for elderly or vulnerable people that you care for.

For me Folr has a lot of good points and as my children get older it will be seriously worth us trying this out as a family.

What about you, is it something you will use? I know I've heard a few friends say no way!

If you like what you have read and want to stay up-to-date then subscribe by email for free and receive blog posts directly to your in-box - just click the link Subscribe to Mummy From The Heart... by Email or perhaps you like to keep all your blog reading in one place, if that is the case you can follow me on BlogLovin too!Follow on Bloglovin

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Are you searching?

For much of my life, this summed me up. I was searching and seeking and always looking to the next thing. I was sure that with the next big achievement I would start to feel different but sadly I remained discontent with what I had and always sure there was more out there, that the next thing would fill that void or hole that I knew was there inside me.

I did what was expected, I got a part-time job, I passed my GCSE's, I went to college, I did well, I got a place at Uni and I did well, I got into a good training program after uni and I moved away. I held management positions with a lot of responsibility at a very young age, I earned loads, I bought new cars, I went on tons of abroad holidays, I had lots of diamonds and a massive wardrobe of clothes and still I knew there was more, there was something else out there. Something waiting for me.

Little did I know that the hole I had was a God shaped one. Nothing that was going to fill it when I was searching in the wrong places. Riches from this world and transient possessions just do not fill that kind of hole.

But I didn't know that I was seeking God, I just knew I was seeking something and nothing was working, all the temporary plasters I stuck over my needs just fell off and fell away.

20 Juy 2002

I now treasure the day my fiance told me that he wanted to get married in St Francis church in WGC. I called the vicar to find out how to arrange this and he told me that we'd then need to attend the Alpha course so we understood more about Christianity and the three-way commitment we were heading towards. His was so quick and insistent that I came off the phone booked in to attend the course the very next day. I thought my finance would see sense and we could be married elsewhere but no he wanted to attend the Apha course.

'Please' I begged him, 'it will be full of old biddies quoting the bible at us, I don't want to go'. 'Christians are a bunch of nutters, all loons, they wear socks and sandals, they will preach to me, it is not my bag at all'. I put up every excuse in the book but he was quite adamant we ought to try and thank goodness. Alpha was my entry to my faith and a love of Jesus that has now been with me for over 12 years now.

My life has been changed and I am complete, I don't have the hole anymore. I am content and I am joyful. There is no need to search anymore as I have found the ultimate, the one who loves me unconditionally and makes my world rock.

If you feel like you are searching and nothing is filling your need then I urge you to consider an Alpha course. They are run all over the country by thousands of different churches, search here for a course close to you. They will not force you, preach to you or convert you. What normally happens is a really social meal with a group of equally unsure people and then through the use of videos, guest speakers and group discussion you explore together issues like 'Is there more to life than this?', 'Who is Jesus?' and 'How and why should I pray?'.

The thing I really loved about Alpha is that practically everyone there is not a Christian and you are free to be honest.  If you want to shout 'but I don't believe in God' then that is OK, people will chat with you and acknowledge your view as valid as their own.

Go on, why don't you try it out? What have you got to lose?

The church that we are attending at the moment (Kings Church, Hastings) has an Alpha taster night with free curry and a licensed bar on Thursday 9th October at 7.30pm. Check out the short video and see if it might be for you. I'll meet you there if you need some company, just let me know and I can book us both in.

Oh and Mum if you are reading this (and I know you are) go on, I just know you will love the community of church. Why don't you try out the Alpha at Christchurch, it starts on Weds 1st October at 7.15pm.

If you are a regular reader you'll know that I'm very open about the fact I'm a Christian and that it is central to my life but I don't particularly preach or force my view on you, so I'll hope you understand that with this post I'm not telling you that you have to go to Alpha, I'm just saying it if feels right try out, I don't think you will be disappointed. It will clarify things one way or the other for you and that has to be a good thing.

Be blessed, Mich x
If you like what you have read and want to stay up-to-date then subscribe by email for free and receive blog posts directly to your in-box - just click the link Subscribe to Mummy From The Heart... by Email or perhaps you like to keep all your blog reading in one place, if that is the case you can follow me on BlogLovin too!Follow on Bloglovin
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