O5rcB_NXbIeHbJV7JFNcdfqL-vY Mummy From The Heart...

Friday, 28 November 2014

Win your own design Christmas wrapping paper - yes please!

I spent a really enjoyable hour tonight sitting with my 7 year old twin girls at the kitchen table. We were all sat there together creating designs for Christmas wrapping paper and it was so nice to share our ideas and encourage each other. Miss M would not call herself a natural artist and she never really sits down and applies herself so it was particularly fulfilling for me to be able to reassure her that she has talent too, it is not just her twin who is the arty one.

Both girls created a fabulous piece of artwork, let me show you. First we have Miss E's offering and then Miss M's -

The reason we were sat there tonight creating Christmas designs is that the girls want to enter the Stabilo UK competition, where children aged 16 or below can submit a hand-drawn design and the lucky winner will win 50 sheets of wrapping paper, created in their own design. There is also two runners up prizes of a Stabilo stationary prize too.

The close date is 12 noon on Friday 5th December so you still have a week to join in. It is super simple and a great weekend activity for an hour or two.  Head over to the Stabilo blog to see more about the competition and of course check out the terms and conditions. You can download the template for your child to draw on from the web page - http://blog.stabilo.co.uk/blog/wrapping-paper-competition/ and it was very easy to do, I printed it straight from my iPad.

The winner will be announced later on the 5th December and my girls now have their fingers crossed. Miss E even asked me if I would wrap all her Christmas presents in the personalised wrap if she won the competition, nothing like a bit of confidence!

Oh and the girls told me I had to reveal to you my design, even though I can't enter the competition as surprisingly I'm just a bit older than 16! No chuckling please... there it is on the right.

I'm now off to share the girls designs on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/STABILOUK and Twitter @StabiloUK as their entry to the competition (you can do one or the other).  So don't forget to do this and give their name and age if you want your child to enter too.

Wishing you the best of luck, I hope you have as much fun as we did!

Mich x

Disclosure: I received a bundle of Stabilo stationary for taking part in this activity and I can confirm we had great fun in doing so. I was not instructed what to write and I remain honest.
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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Buying Beautiful Ethical Gifts and a Super #Giveaway

When I was away in the states last month I got to meet some amazing people who are not content to just sit back and watch other people pull themselves out of poverty, they want to be part of that process and to use the knowledge they have to help these entrepreneurs in developing countries be able to access the consumers out there and bring their products to the market.

Talking of To The Market this is the name of a fairly new social venture founded by Jane Mosbacher Morris who has sourced some beautiful goods to sell to the US market via pop-up shops and her website. I love this site, not only is Jane and her small team interested in bringing us wonderful goods they are also interested in giving all their artisans a channel to share their stories and be heard, so powerful. Just take a look at a few of the products -

Unfortunately for my UK readers To the Market is set up to sell in the US and Canada. Jane has said if you see something you fancy email them and they will investigate postage but of course realistically that will make a cost difference.

I've been looking out for UK companies doing the same kind of job as To the Market and I came across SWAGs World (Simply Women and Girls Sustainable World),  who appear to be offering a smaller range but still with some beautiful items none the less. Their mission is to offer a global marketplace of affordable, accessible products for socially responsible consumers; an alternative to mass-produced, throwaway fashion, poor working conditions and undervalued labour. They take pride in the quality, craftsmanship and uniqueness of each product they sell, and believe it to be a reflection of the skill and passion that has created it.

Their harmony dolls are particularly gorgeous and of course super for allowing young children to think about the value of difference and the harmony we should all be living in. I've been lucky enough to be sent one to giveaway to one lucky reader. My 7 year old twins were looking at it this morning and they begged me to keep it, we won't be! lol

Not content with just giving you a Harmony doll, I thought I would also offer you a couple of brand new items that I have at home.  A stunning Genet scarf from FashionABLE who are another wonderful not-for-profit that I adore and also a Kate Spade on Purpose gold bracelet. In this last year Kate Spade have introduced a new program called On purpose and they have been working with 150 women in Rwanda on an initiative which seeks to transform their community of 20,000.

So here is what you will win in this giveaway -

and the scarf and bracelet close up -


Win 3 beautiful ethical gifts

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Getting into my Winter Coat

I go against the grain, I'm that kind of girl. Whereas most people are desperate to lose weight for the summer I need to lose weight for the winter.  Well OK, I'll be honest I just need to lose weight full-stop and it does not matter when. It's only become a bit more urgent now as I have my new super warm and fully waterproof coat from Mountain Warehouse and it is snug, yep really snug. There won't be any jumper or cardigan wearing with it at the moment! Thankfully it feels warm enough that I can go out in just the coat and a short-sleeved top and it was only one degrees this morning but you know what it is like when the snow hits. Then I'll need to wrap up and I don't want to look as big as I do right now.

I'm about to take a blogging break for the next month and the purpose of that is to enjoy advent and focus on the real meaning of Christmas. I'm pretty sure God won't mind if I also use some of the time I free up by not blogging to take more exercise and plan better dinners and meal options. I suspect if I focus I can probably lose nearly a stone before Christmas, they do say the first bit to shift is the easiest and that might just be enough that I then feel comfortable in my coat and my chins look as if there are a couple less of them!

I got my son JJ to take some pictures of my in my new coat earlier and whilst the coat looks great, I'm not so impressed with me.  I am without make-up as I think it is important to let my skin breath at least one day a week and I'm not vain enough to worry about these photos going up on my blog, this is tales of the good, bad and ugly after all.

Let me tell you want I like about my new coat, the Canyon women's long waterproof coat -
  • It is available in both burgundy or khaki colours, I thought I'd go for the burgundy as red and pink are my favourite colours but actually I'm now wondering if I'd have looked more trendy and less mumsy in the khaki.
  • It is currently on sale for £59.99 and I think that is a very reasonable price for a quality coat like this. I can see it lasting for a very long time.
  • It is fully waterproof and will keep me dry in all this awful weather we have been having.
  • It is long enough to keep my bum warm as winter arrives.
  • There are loads of toggles to be able to adjust it to make it as warm as possible, inside the coat by the waste, at the bottom hem and around the hood can all be drawn in to keep the cold out.
  • There are elasticated cuffs and then also regular sleeve edges that cover them and can be drawn in with Velcro. So it has the benefit of being really warm without looking frumpy.
  • The hood has a great furry detail to the edge which I really like but it can be removed by poppers if you like and you can zip off the hood too if you want less bulk.
  • The front pockets are massive and you can put loads in them, this is useful for me when I am taking photographs and want to take additional lens and filters with me but without the faff of a bag.
  • The front pockets can be accessed from the top and from the sides and the inside when you access them from the side if lovely and fleecy and warm.
  • There are also loads of other pockets, both inside and out. The one up by the collar on the outside if my favourite as it is a perfect size for my mobile and keeps it really safe.
  • It is padded inside which makes it really warm.
  • it is available in sizes 8 - 22 so should suit most everyone.
  • As per my previous experiences the delivery from Mountain Warehouse was really quick and the packaging was good. I saw see it is free delivery to your home if you spend over £50 and there are free exchanges and returns if you need to
When you look on the Mountain Warehouse website there are lots of reviews for this coat and they are all excellent so it appears I'm in good company.

I'm setting myself a little challenge, to come back after December and to show you a picture of me in my coat so you can see how much weight I have lost. Wish me luck.....

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, 24 November 2014

Healthier frying with my Breville Halo+ Health Fryer

For the last couple of years now I've heard friends talking about the new breed of low-fat fryers and how amazing they are. Whilst I love a good portion of chips as much as the next person I just closed off really and didn't listen too much as who need another large kitchen appliance that just does one job?

Well it was only when I was visiting my friend Carey that I spotted her Breville Halo+ health fryer and asked her if it was any good, that I discovered just how versatile it is. This appliance that I thought would just deep fat fry actually does all sorts - bake muffins, grill salmon to perfection, cook a curry and even make me the most divine Creme Brulee. To say I was surprised is an understatement!

It was then even more of a surprise to find BritMums putting a call out to see if any of their bloggers would like to trial and review a Breville Halo+ health fryer. Of course I applied for that opportunity and fortunately for me and my family, I was successful.

My fryer arrived with me just over a week ago and I haven't cooked as much in it yet as I would like as I already had my menu planned and bought for before I even knew the fryer was on its way to me. Over the next few months I intend to really put this appliance though its paces and see if it is a good as my friend Carey says.

Of course the first thing I set out to cook was chips. It is a classic and in honestly the main reason I wanted one of these.  I never use the traditional deep fry method so if we have chips at home they tend to be oven chips and they are OK but not the same level of deliciousness as those that come from the chippie or my Mum's homemade ones.

I'll be honest frying your own chips is more time consuming and effort than getting a bag of ready made ones out of the freezer but the chips done in the Halo+ do taste at least ten times better than oven ones! Not quite as good as chip shop deep fried chips but then you have to make some allowance for the fact these have 95% less fat, that is a massive difference and a very important one when you are considering weight and a healthy heart.

You can see in the picture grid below how I did with my first batch of chips. As a family of 5 with big appetites we don't go in for small portions so I went for the full 1.25kg of raw potatoes, which is the capacity of this Halo+ health fryer.

I cut the chips to 1 -2cm slices, patted them dry to remove excess moisture, laid them in the pan, poured over the tiny spoon of oil, put down the lid, set the time and pressed dual cooking mode (so simple!). After the 35 minutes as suggested by the instructions the chips were not done enough to my liking so I went for another 10 minutes and then they were great. The non-stick bowl that rotates and the tilt function on the fryer means that the chips cook evenly and without sticking. They were super chips but at 45 minutes to cook and a good 10-15 to prepare they are not a quick dinner.

OK, so you can see my finished dinner and it was not the most healthy dinner in the world but every do often you have to have a treat, don't you? And, just think by using the Halo+ fryer for the chips I cut the calories in that meal radically and lunch had been a whole ton of veggies, so it all comes out in the wash.

Healthier Cooking
That is one of the really great things about the Halo+, I can still eat the meals I want to eat but because of the cooking method the result will be far more healthy than if I had traditionally cooked it and as I am embarking on a month of healthy eating, exercise and family fun in December this is the perfect appliance to have available to me.

One of my favourite simple meals is steamed veg with grilled salmon and lemon juice over it, it is perfect that I have been able to use my (too small) oven to cook for my family as they do not eat fish and then use my Halo+ to cook my salmon fillet to have with the same veg the family are having with their meat and potatoes (very traditional British family here!).

The only other thing I have used my Halo+ fryer for so far was to cook some frozen burgers for when the kids had some friends come round for tea. I was interested to see how the Halo+ coped with frozen food and it appears to do a fine job. This time I used it on grill mode rather than dual cooking and it was great to see all the fat come out the burgers and run to the bottom, this meant the meat I was serving was healthier and I was able to pour off the fat for it to solidify and be disposed of.

Recipe ideas
There are some excellent recipe ideas on the Breville website so you don't have to feel alone and like you have no idea what to cook, just head over there and make something delicious. I'll share a few that look simple and are on my hit list -

Cleaning the Halo+
You get a snap on very robust handle for moving the inside dish and this is good as it gets extremely hot, it is easy to use and I just pop it in the dishwasher. Generally I found cleaning the product really easy.  The grill rack and inside dish can be put in the dishwasher and come up well and the outside can be wiped with a damp cloth. The plastic hood also comes off for washing. The hardest part was the metal grill at the front of the grill fan, this does not remove and after cooking the chips the photo below shows how it came up looking after a wipe and then a scrub with wire wool. So it looks as though that top part will look stained, as I'd be loath to put cleaning product up there as the grill is behind it but as it is inside I'm not too worried.

In general I think the Halo+ looks like a little alien and it makes me smile each time I see it, it is rather bright and garish and luckily my kitchen is green. If it wasn't I might not like the bright colour so much. The Breville Halo+ Health Fryer has an RRP of £169.99 which is my opinion is pretty steep. From shopping around I see you can buy it as low as £99.99 at Argos but it is still a big investment and I think you would really need to want to cook deep fried items like chips and battered fish as otherwise you could just invest in a very good slow cooker to do many of the other jobs.

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

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Beautiful Christmas Jewellery gifts from Merci Maman

I've seen that quite a few of my blogger friends have written about Merci Maman over the last 2 or 3 years so when they contacted me and asked if I'd like to review a necklace for them I was very excited. Sadly the email had gone into spam and been unnoticed for a while so when I went back to them to ask if they were still seeking people I wasn't sure if they would be but it was obviously meant to be as they sent me a link for a new necklace that as yet had not been reviewed by anyone else. Coincidentally this was the necklace that I had chosen the night before when I looked through the site.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

My top 10 #AYASummit Moments

I've got so much going round my head at the moment and it is just becoming a big jumble. I sit down at the computer to put my thoughts into words and nothing comes and then I get cross with myself and try to focus, realistically it is a bit of a vicious cycle.  I know myself well enough to know it is time for a bloggy break and that's coming but I've just got a few things to sort out first.

One of the things I really did want to capture before taking a break is all the amazing moments I experienced when I was in Washington DC with ONE for the #AYASummit. As I've said before this really was the most inspiring and all-consuming conference that I have ever had the privileged to attend. I just need to get my head in order so I can use all the information and experiences I gained.

Here is my top 10, I thought about doing a count-down but it would seem wrong to place the events in any kind of order of importance or relevance as they were all so impacting -

1.  Listening to Marquesha Babers read her poem she had written as an entry to the Girl Rising competition to attend the Women in the World summit. What was remarkable is that 19 year old Marquesha has spent most of her life homeless and yet her spirit and morals are fabulous, she talked after about protecting her cousins for poor TV choices and getting an education.

Monday, 17 November 2014

How to make your Christmas wrapping easy and fun

Do you enjoy wrapping the presents?  I know many people don't but I'll be honest with you, I love it, it is probably one of my favourite parts of Christmas, all that anticipation and knowing that I have chosen gifts that will make people smile.  Wrapping my kids presents is the best as I know how chuffed they will be when they rip the paper open on Christmas morning.

I have to be honest, with the kids I don't go in for fancy wrapping with beautiful bows and ribbons as that feels like a waste of money but I do wrap absolutely everything, including the 20-30 stocking gifts each.  I estimate I must wrap at least 140 presents for the kids and before you start to chastise me that I'm spoiling them, I'm talking about wrapping stickers, pencils, chocolate coins etc for their stockings all separately. I don't spend that much on my kids but I do like to put thought into it and make sure they get things they will really enjoy and appreciate.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Let's find mushrooms mummy (A year in photos)

After Church today I asked Miss E if she fanced a walk around the grounds where we live. JJ wanted a chilled afternoon before a game of football with the volunteers, Miss M was to make Anzac biscuits with Daddy for home learning and that left me and the little cutie,

'Let's find mushrooms mummy' she said excitedly, 'we can take our cameras'.

So that is what we did, a nice walk for a couple of hours enjoying the fact it was not raining but enjoying finding the fruit of all that rain as there was some fabulous fungi to be found! We then finished off the afternoon by inviting the rest of the family to join us for a cup of hot chocolate at the Orangery.

One on one time with my chidren is so special, that it can't be taken for granted, so as we walk I always take time to chat. We talk about the week gone, the week ahead, school, activities, friends, who we can pray for and what is on our hearts. It is very special to have that time to enjoy being together.
 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

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