O5rcB_NXbIeHbJV7JFNcdfqL-vY Mummy From The Heart...

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

How does your garden grow - July

This months How Does Your Garden Grow post is all about the walled garden here at my home. Since late may we have been having a bumper crop of cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, potatoes and the like.  It all tastes so much better when it is grown organically and of course the fact that I don't actually have to tend to it is a big plus point from my point of view.  I get to do the best bit - eat it!








Linking up with Annie over at Manneskjur.
Manneskjur
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Monday, 21 July 2014

Start your day the Dolce Gusto Way... #DolceGustoBlogger


My morning routine has taken a turn for the better over the last couple of weeks.  In days gone by I have always started the day with a large cup of tea but now it is all about the coffee, more specifically cappuccino if I'm honest.

I've always liked coffee but I've never been able to make a cup as good as those you get when out but now I do get a really decent cappuccino and for a fraction of the price. Actually my morning cappuccino now costs me about 47p per cup (or £3.77 for a box of 8) and I've ordered the Cafe Au Lait with this weeks shopping and they are even more cost efficient as I need just one pod to make a cup and that is 24p for a seriously well brewed cup of coffee.

So what am I using to make my delicious coffee?  A NESCAFE Dolce Gusto Mini Me machine made by quality manufacturer De'Longhi.  I see these retail for £59.99 at John Lewis and I think that is a good price for a machine with a 2 year warranty that has no fuss required. I just op in the pod of my choosing, select the volume I want (to match that suggested or to my own desire) and hey presto the machine regulates the pressure to ensure I have my coffee come out just the way I like it, be that a strong and sultry espresso or a frothy Latte Macchiato.


The Thermoblock heating system means that the cold water I put into the machine is heated in under a minute and thus I have drinks quicker than when I use a regular kettle! It is also really good that the machine kicks into standby mode after 5 minutes of inactivity and thus even if I have forgotten to switch it off it is energy efficient and safe.

I'm trying to limit myself to one cup a day as I like to add sugar to coffee and the regular cappuccino is 84 calories per cup although I've also spotted today there is a light version which is just 20 calories so I'll be trying that next. It's funny that I'm thinking about the calories when you look at the next picture though as I have found the cappuccino is super with cake!


I'll tell you what else is pretty cool, it is the Facebook page for NESCAFE Dolce Gusto as there is a real community feel there, you can chat, upload photos, be in with a chance to win pods, give feedback and even find fabulous recipes like this one below, I WILL be making this very soon...


They have also launched a new fun app called The Pod and this allows you to play games and collect stamps for fun and there is also the chance to win prizes when you complete the mini tasks to earn the stamps. There is nothing laborious, it might just be giving your feedback on literally one question or saying what you favourite pod is etc.

It is always good to have a browse and see what is about and I've just found out that there is a code in each one of my pod boxes and by entering these on the website I can be in with a chance to win a years free coffee - result!

Anyway I'm sure this will be the first of many NESCAFE Dolce Gusto posts as I've been selected to be a #DolceGustoblogger and that means I will get to try out all sorts of flavours and fun things.

Disclosure:  The mini me machine and a starter pack was sent to me free of charge for the purpose of trying out the products and writing this post. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.
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Sunday, 20 July 2014

A year in photos - weeks 27-29

I've been sitting on the edge of the blogging scene in recent weeks and this has suited me just fine.  Life is busy and the most important thing I can do is live it and enjoy it, not just write about it. I've been trying hard to stay chilled and to live in the moment instead of projecting and worrying about what might happen.

Here is what we have been up to in the last 3 weeks (and when I looked through my photos there was a serious lack of images in comparison to other times so I'm taking that as a good sign that I've been having some down time and not fretting about taking photos) -

A day with our family and also some of the wider Ashburnham family to Birling Gap and Seven Sisters cliffs. Lots of walking and fun.


Capturing a Mummy and daughters selfie, look at the joy in their faces - priceless.


A day to a local play park and gardens. It was a naff place in all honesty but we still had a nice time playing games together like crazy golf and air hockey.


Fun with our pastoral group, getting to know each other and playing games. It is such a privilege to be part of the lives of so many young people.


This next picture probably sums up best what I have been up to most in the last couple of weeks and that has been volunteering and working where I live. I've really enjoyed working in bookings, doing a couple of hour stints in the tea room and also doing the social media stuff. It is the tea rooms 1st birthday this weekend and I thought this was a good capture of the current staff.


It was the girls birthday this last week and they are looking very grown up and gorgeous. We had a fun party for them and it was super that my parents could be there.




I've also had some good times out with my husband thanks to some wonderful babysitters, we went to a party and for an Indian and then out for lunch and cake another time. It makes such a difference when you can chat without interruption.

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky
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Saturday, 19 July 2014

Personal Planners - Review and #Giveaway

I've never really sat and thought about how much time and effort it takes to organise a family of five. I think we have quite a traditional set-up in that I organise the family holidays, the days out, the kids clubs, the social stuff, the shopping, the insurance policies etc and I'm really happy to do that as I'm a natural organiser and I like to be on top of things.

In this day and age it seems most people opt to use online diaries and apps now to manage what they are up to and I have tried this, really I have, but for some reason it is just not floating my boat.  I've had many successful years at work where I have used my calendar for appointments, reminders and everything else that goes with working in a busy office but for my private life I still like to have a calendar on the wall and a diary I can write in.  Go on, go ahead and call me old fashioned, I don't mind. I prefer to call it classic.

Small Personal Planner
At BritMums Live in 2013 a company called Personal Planner provided notebooks for all the attendees and I took one of those pretty pale pink pads home, the paper is thick and lightly lined, the spiral binding is firm and quality and there is also a thick plastic cover and elastic band to keep it closed.  This was firmly the start of a love affair.

They also provided a free code to go online and order a planner of your choosing. I opted for a small 4.3" x 5.5" planner and the great thing is you can choose when it starts, so whatever time of year you order you get the most from it. When my planner ran out in June this year I contacted Personal Planner and asked them if they would like me to review one and here I am with my beautiful new planner, which is just the right size to carry in my handbag and carry about with me every day.

Here is this years planner, that I designed just for me -


It is really easy online to get your planner just how you want it, there are 4 different sizes available, all with the same high quality finish and thick, luxurious pages. You got though the steps of choosing your cover, the wording, how you want the pages to look, whether you want some note pages, musical score pages, graphs pages or loads of others.

There are so many options, do you want somewhere to log your personal training, the weather, if you are working? They are all available. You can also add in personalised dates and these will be saved for when you order again in future years. I kept mine pretty simple as that is how I like it and I choose a nice green ruler to match my cover.  I also went for an optional pink pen so I can look really twee and completely match!


The ordering was easy and the price for the small planner is £14.95 plus £2.95 delivery so it is not the cheapest out there but then who wants cheap. I want something I can bash about in my bag for a year and it still looks good and I know this is it, as that is exactly what happened last year, no pages falling out, or cheap metal spirals getting out of shape.

Wall Planner
This is a new product which I've not seen before and it is fabulous. Again you customise it to how you fancy. I used one of my macro flower photos on the front and then inside added a column for myself, my husband, our son and one for the girls and could add a little photo of each of us. I liked that I could also colour coordinate each of them as that makes it really visually easy and appealing. The planner shows a week to view so never again do I have to try and cram so much writing in a tiny space like I do on a month to view calendar. You can hang it so you can just see one week or two at a time, it depends on your preference and space, each page is 12" x 12".

Each product was delivered to me separately and in a cardboard box, the planner arrived in pristine condition but the wall planner cardboard was a bit less solid and one corner was bent, which did not really bother me but if it was a gift and I had paid £24.95 plus postage for it, I would want it to be perfect.

From the point of order and payment it takes about 2 weeks for your planner to arrive with you, so you need to factor this in when you order but it is clear on the website.
In all I'm really happy with my planners and I would buy from this company again, it is not the cheapest but it is really good quality and the level to which you can personalise their products is excellent.

Giveaway

Would you like to win a personal planner and a family wall planner for yourself?  I have one of each available for the lucky winner.

Win a personal and a family planner

Make sure you check out the terms and conditions and good luck.  Mich x
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Friday, 18 July 2014

Happy birthday my babies..... 7 today


A letter to my little ladies....

Hello my babies,

This time 7 years ago you had just been born and you were two of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. Daddy and I were so happy you had come to make our family complete. Miss E, you came out first and you squealed and made it known that you had arrived. Then our little Miss M followed, slightly more heavy and slightly more chubby and quite serene and we thought this might be how things continued.

But little did we know that each time we thought we had your personalities pegged you would swap and keep us on our toes. I'm pleased to say it has only ever been one of you at a time that has been super high maintenance. Miss E, it was you first and then once your reflux was diagnosed and you had your medicine you calmed right down and were such a cute and happy baby.

Miss M you were the one that fed well, slept through the night from an early age, talked first, walked first and frankly did everything first but you have always been our more feisty girl and you wear your emotions on your sleeve and sometimes get into trouble for being all too ready to share what you think.

I love you my babies, both so different, yet both so gorgeous.

Miss M you make me proud to be your mummy as I love how helpful you are, such fun to be with, always willing to share and put on a fun performance. You are so bright and you need to be careful not to waste your skills by getting into trouble through boredom.

Miss E you are a little tender heart and you care so much.  I have never felt such love as I feel from you and I love your tenacity, you won't give up and try so hard. Your skills in all things drawing and crafting astound me and I know one day you will be a super success in whatever you decide to do.

Don't forget my girls you are a team. Being twinnies is special and you must always be each others champion. Even when no-one else wants to play your twin sister will be standing there by your side so cherish that and nurture your special relationship instead of bickering and teasing each other (Miss M I'm looking at you here).

Anyway, have a wonderful day and I'm glad you enjoyed your party yesterday.

Lots of love, Mummy xxxxx


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Wednesday, 16 July 2014

No fuss printing with HP Instant Ink


For the last couple of years it has been such a faff to try and print anything, we had an old printer and we could not get the drivers to download onto my new laptop, so I had to email things to a very old laptop and then plug the printer into the computer and say a prayer as I hoped the printing would actually arrive. Then quite often I'd find the ink was practically empty and no-one had told me. Fast forward about £50 for a couple of new cartridges and I might be able to print something. Boy did it all drive me crazy and things would sit in my email account for days waiting for me to muster the energy to sort the printer.

You don't know how happy I am to tell you that this has all changed in the last couple of weeks. HP asked me if I'd like to try out their new Instant Ink service. This is a pay monthly ink replacement service which means I never have to worry about going out and remembering to buy cartridges again as they get delivered direct to my door just about the time the existing one will run out. It is super clever and makes me super happy.

Take a peek at this very short video, it explains the service perfectly -



It is so easy, you buy a compatable HP printer, enrol online with HP Instant Ink and then just get on with your printing.

The prices are not too expensive either, they start from a very reasonable £1.99 per month to subscribe to the service. It does not matter if you print black and white or colour, your plan is for the pages printed rather than the ink used. Of course on one hand this is good but you need to be aware that if you print a sheet with just a couple of lines of black text, that is one of your 100 sheets gone for that month. This service is especially good for those people who like to print lots of photos and ink intensive pieces.


I also like the fact that you can roll over the unused pages from the last months usage and that the cost for going over your subscription is not too steep either (see above).

When you sign up for your plan it might be a guesstimate as to which service you need but the good news is that you are in charge and you can easily change it online. If you upgrade this will happen immediately or you can make it retrospect from the start of your last billing cycle and if you downgrade or cancel this will happen from the start of your next billing cycle.

My experience
When my HP Envy 5530 printer arrived I took a deep breath and was ready for it to be difficult to set up. Brilliant news, it was not at all. I plugged it in, turned it on and it guided me through the set up by the colour touch screen, I was very impressed.

I was not so impressed that when it printed off its test page it appeared to be missing the text that I assumed should be on there. I then tried to print something from Word and nothing appeared yet if I printed a colour photo that came out fine. It was quite strange and I googled and found a few other people with this problem too on a HP forum. The answer seemed to be to insert a different black ink cartridge but of course this is not what you want to have to do with a brand new printer. As I had been sent an Instant Ink starter kit I put the black Instant Ink cartridge in and then my printing from Word seemed to be fine.

Great, I thought, how easy is that? Until the next day when I went to print the invitations for my girls birthday party and the computer and printer kept advising me I was not enrolled in the HP Instant Ink service and thus could not use that cartridge. I enrolled online then and there and that in itself was not difficult but still that cartridge would not print for me.

I thus emailed HP support as my error message was advising me to do and waited, apparently the response should have come in 24 hours but for me it was nearer 48 hours. Of course this is not that long but when you are avidly waiting to print it feels like a lifetime. I can say that the HP customer representative I spoke to was excellent and he helped me to sort the problem. Basically that original ink cartridge was now miraculously working and we think the issue was that I had been sent an Instant Ink cartridge before I enrolled, this of course would never normally happen if you were not reviewing the service, so I was just unlucky.

Since my problem was rectified a week ago I have printed loads and been really happy with the printer, the quality of the printed documents (including photos) and the Instant Ink service. The HP customer representative arranged for another black ink cartridge to be sent to me so I do not have any further problems.

I also could not believe how easy it was to print remotely from my iPhone and my daughter also did from her android tablet. I think the HP Envy 5530 is a fabulous wireless printer for the cost of £89.95.

The HP Connected account is also good and I love the fact I can log in to my account and see how many pages I have printed and feel in control of my subscription, it also advises me what ink has been sent to me and when and with the Instant Ink pack I receive a pre-paid bag to send back my old cartridge for recycling.

Plus Points
  • Never run out of ink again as a new cartridge will arrive to your door before yours expires
  • Unused pages from the month previous will roll-over for you to use
  • You can change or cancel your subscription anytime
  • You don't get charged any more for being a heavy user of colour printing
  • Instant Ink cartridges have more ink in them and can print over 500 pages each
  • Handy recycling service to do your bit for the planet
  • You can buy your Instant Ink subscription from John Lewis, PC World or online with HP direct

I'm so happy I found out about this service and I'm pretty certain that once my year trial finishes I'll keep this going as one year on the  £3.49 per month plan (100 pages a month) only works out to £41.88 per year and this price isn't much different to buying one black and one colour cartridge in the year.

Disclosure: I received a printer and a years membership to the HP Instant Ink so that I could honestly write this review. I have not been instructed what to write.
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Tuesday, 15 July 2014

How much does it cost to feed a 10 year old?


My son JJ is 10 years old, nearly 11 and he is a big, tall strapping lad, practically as tall as me and he even has the same size feet. So it stands to reason that he wants to eat nearly as much as I do and it can be hard at times to rationalise whether I should be putting as much on his plate as I have or not. I don't want him to end up overweight like me so I tend to go with giving him less and then he can ask if he is still hungry and wants a little more.

NatWest asked me to look at my spending habits and to work out how much I spend on JJ's food each week. Their Child Cost Calculator estimates that JJ will cost me about £40 a week in food (as he is in the 4 - 12 year old age group) and I was a bit flabbergasted at this initially but upon thinking about it a bit more I realise it depends on what is happening in that week.

An average food shop for the five of us is about £100 a week and then I will sometimes top this up with extra bread, milk, fruit and vegetables so you might be looking as high as £120 but that will include all cleaning products, toiletries and household items. So the true cost of the food is about £100 and if you divide that by the 5 of us then that is £20 each, add in maybe one or two school meals a week and that's another £4 and a twix after swimming and 50p sweets in the shop once a week is another £1. So now I am up to £25 in a week and fairly often we will have a meal out, sometimes it will just be a MacDonald's for convenience and that's about another £4 or if we are heading out somewhere nicer then it could be more like £10, which would then get it closer to the £40 mark that the NatWest calculator suggests.

I had a lot of fun using the calculator and seeing what it believes the cost of bringing up a child is, the estimated cost before you put any of your own edits in is just over £307K and that seems crazy to me but I suppose if you are paying school fees and hefty amounts in childcare it soon adds up and if you are earning a city salary, maybe that does not seem that much. I chose to adjust the calculator to suit our family's lifestyle and using educated guesses it looks as if my kids are costing me about £52K each over the course of the first 17 years of their lives. As I have three children that is in excess of £150K to bring up the kids and it worked out to £9100 per year in child related costs. That seems pretty scary to me, as it does not even take into account your housing, utility bills or others essentials like that but I would not change it for anything.

Before having the children I had lots of disposable income, nice cars, abroad holidays and a massive wardrobe but their cries of Mummy when I arrive home after being away mean far more to me now than the money did.

Why don't you check out the NatWest Child Cost Calculator and see if your costs match up to what the research says a child will cost? It breaks the costs down into four age groups - 0-12 months, 1-3 years, 4-12 years and then 13-17 years which is good as it reflects that costings in various areas do change depending on the child's abilities and needs.

Let me know how much your cost comes out at for the first 17 years. Can you beat my £52K per child?  I think I did quite well getting it down to that and my kids certainly aren't missing out on anything.



Disclosure: NatWest have kindly sent me some Sainsburys vouchers to spend on my shopping and test out how much I spend on JJ's food. They have not instructed me what to write and I remain honest.


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Sunday, 13 July 2014

Isn't camp building just the best fun?

As a child some of my favourite times were when my mum got a very large old bed sheet and put it over the washing line, we would then get chairs and the clothes horse and peg the sheet to that to make a sort of tent or den. Then the fun really began, what could I take in it to pay with? My teddies, my dolls, some colouring, a packed lunch - the list is endless and the fun went on for hours.

Of course my children have followed in my footsteps, I think all kids love to make a den and I often come down in the morning to find my 7 year old twins have got up early and made the living room into a cosy den complete with blankets and every last cuddly toy they own (about 60 between them in case you were wondering!).

Now their fun has increased tenfold as we have been sent the Kidcampz set and this wonderful set allows them to use their imagination and to build whatever their heart desires. In the sturdy orange bag they get 30 poles (70cm long), 18 multi connectors, 10 straight connectors, 10 clips to put the sheet on the frame, 10 velcro straps to put through the loop in the sheet and secure it to furniture or to combine poles together, 4 stakes to go in the ground to secure the sheet and one very large 3.6 metre squared sheet, made of waterproof rip-stop nylon.

The girls were really keen to start building and we didn't even get onto the website to look at the great tent building guide they just dived straight in and did what they fancied. Don't you just love toys that are not too prescriptive and kids can just explore and use their imagination?

Here is the first camp they made, follow the pics from the top left corner. I love the fact they are working together as a team and really having fun. I have to confess they did not enjoy the clean up half as much as the building and they found it hard to understand why I might not want to sit in the den and watch TV that evening! At first the girls found the poles quite hard to take off the connectors but as they are more used they ease and you just need to know to twist them off.


What we have found is that each time you build a new tent you get a little more proficient in knowing how to make the structure sturdy. The next day after school the girls wanted to make themselves a den each in their bedroom and this was the result -


The next day JJ announces it is his turn and that at nearly 11 years old no way is he too old to make a camp, he is a scout afterall and makes real tents don't you know? So a reading den was what he set off to make for himself. The Kidcampz is recommended for children aged 4 - 12 years but really as long as the young children are supervised it will be great fun for all ages and yes I did enjoy getting involved too.


After having a good play over a number of days (all indoors sadly as the weather has been too rainy) I can honestly say that we love the KidCampz sets. It is such a fun thing for the kids to play and it keeps them away from too much screen time, which is always a plus point.

The Kidcampz set normally retails for £145 for there is a special sale for July at the moment and the price has been slashed by 40%, so you can pick one up for £87 until the end of this month.

Plus points -

  • Great imaginative play and encourages team work
  • Enough poles and connectors to make some really interesting shaped camps/dens
  • The bag it all comes in is sturdy and even if you don't fold the big sheet it all still fits in, amazing the first time I've ever found this with this kind of kit!
  • It looks good and everything is pretty sturdy and should last for some time
  • It can be used inside and outside
  • The sheet is a quality nylon that you can wipe down and it won't stain
  • There is a door, little pockets and two mesh windows in the sheet
Cons -
  • You have to be careful not to put too much strain on the connectors otherwise you can see the plastic starting to bend as it looks whiter.
  • It's not cheap
  • The velcro at the bottom of the sheet was driving me crazy as it kept sticking to my top and snagging it!

Thanks so much to KidCampz for our kit, the children really love it. We are also super grateful that you choose to donate to our lovely on site nursery used by hundreds of children over the summer months. I can just envisage the fun they will have either inside the nursery or in the attached garden.


Disclosure: We received 3 Kidcampz for the purpose of this review and two will be making their way up to the nursery here at the charity we live at. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

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