Monday, 29 April 2013

But what will you do?

The view from my front door, I could just sit and stare at that for quite some time!

Do you know how many times I have heard this question in the last few weeks?  Dozens upon dozens, anyone that hears about our family's move to East Sussex congratulates me on the wonderful move and the job that dh has secured and then they look at me quite worried and say 'but what will you do?'.

To which I usually reply 'I don't know' and then they take this as me being a bit worried about what the future holds, but the truth is so far from that it is unreal. 'I don't know' means I will wait on God and see what He speaks to me. What does He wish for me to be doing? Where is my purpose for Him? Answers may come in moments or they might take years and that is OK, I am on an exploratory journey and I will wait and see.

Our family have made a very informed decision to change our lives and to do something which we feel God is calling us to do. I know very definitely there are times that I have heard from God and seen His truth realised. Years back he gave me a vision of 2 pregnancies and 3 babies and thus when my 6 week scan in 2006 showed I was pregnant with twins it was no surprise to me. I just felt secure and comfortable as I knew my babes were a gift from God.

Similarly for years I have known I would live at a Christian conference centre. I always thought I would be running it with dh, maybe this is the future or maybe my vision was slightly offline, I'm not sure but what is happening is close enough that I believe it to be of God. It is certainly not me that has been brave enough to say 'yes lets move 100 miles away, sell our house, leave all that we know, change our kids schools, reduce our income by two thirds and leave you jobless Michelle'. Oh no, that is God right there who has prepared dh and I over the years to know that He knows best and we must walk in faith and follow.

2006 was a very significant year in my Christian walk, in July I was struck with Bells Palsy and facial paralysis for quite a few weeks and from a number of sources I received the same message 'Michelle - stop doing and start being' and I feel that this move is part of that.  I am being released from the bondage of having to work and finding purpose in that work. I am a child of God and that is enough, my purpose is to 'be' and the good things I do should come from that sense of being and that confidence in Christ.

So going back to that original question - what will I do? I honestly don't know but that is OK.  I'll always be me - a wife, mother, friend, daughter, sister, blogger, foodie but most of all I am a child of God and I am fully available for the Lord to use me as He sees fit. 

What I will do is be ready and available. Ready for the next challenge and task that God decides to place with me and use me in. He has a plan and his plan is perfect, even when we don't understand it.

How is God using you right now?

Writing this post has made me think about this great song, have a listen. It talks a lot about waiting on the Lord and that is where I am at -


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Sunday, 28 April 2013

Measuring up our new home


We've had a lovely couple of days down in East Sussex checking out the local schools, attractions, beaches and parks, ready for our move at the end of June. It’s not long really, is it? I had to keep pinching myself and seeing if the place is real – will we honestly be living in this beautiful countryside? I know it will happen but it does all feel quite surreal right now.

Whilst we were there, of course I wanted to drop in and take a look at how the refurbishment of our new house was going and I was not disappointed. The house is coming on a treat; take a peek at some of the photos. The kids are having their bedrooms painted in colours they chose and in the main we have gone for cream walls so that we have a blank canvas to create something beautiful from. In our first couple of weeks in East Sussex whilst the kids are at school I’m going to enjoy scouring the local shops to find beautiful soft furnishing and accessories, but without breaking the bank.


The windows are all completely different sizes to the ones we have at the moment and I’m no seamstress so I’ll need to get new window coverings. I expect I’ll go for curtains in the main but I’d also quite like some wood venetian blinds for the downstairs rooms as I don’t really want peeking guests as they go by. The blinds on Web-Blinds seem very nice and I love the shutters on there as well but it seems a bit silly for me to invest too much money when it is not my property. So blinds will fit the bill perfectly, classic roller ones in the bathroom and kitchen and then maybe the venetians in the two front facing rooms.

One of the jobs I am quite excited about is choosing new furniture for the house, at the moment we have an expensive Sharpes built-in bedroom suite which of course we can’t take with us and the children’s bed are either pretty old or inherited so they all need new beds. Each of them seems to have a different idea of what might be nice, JJ is hankering after a high bed with a desk and wardrobe underneath whilst the girls quite fancy having bunk beds and moving in together to share a room.

The beauty of that is that it will allow us to have a play room downstairs and we can get a sofa bed to go in there ready for when my parents or friends come to stay. I think I need to get myself on Pinterest and have a look around for some ideas. I am feeling a bit lost for design ideas at the moment. We were given the chance to have all the rooms painted in the colours of our choice and I went blank and said cream for most of the rooms as I just could not think.  I knew the kitchen was having new cream shaker cupboards, so I asked for a soft sage type green in there (yes Mum, I copied you!).

As I mentioned the kids made their choices and the girls have lilac and JJ has blue.  He is already sorted and has his red, white and blue theme all set in his mind.  He has even invested in a new duvet and wall canvases already. To be honest he was the most hesitant about moving and if a small concession like having his bedroom the way he wants it will help him to feel comfortable with our move then that is fine by me.

I’ve started to look online for furniture and it dawned on me I need to be careful that things can make it up the winding stairway. M&S has some beautiful furniture but it does cost quite a bit.  I have spotted a good deal though, in that they have 20% off certain ranges if you buy two or more pieces and as my Mum used to work for them she can get discount too so that makes it a much better deal. I need to get organised now though if I want to shop there as most things have a six week delivery wait. I’ve also had a peek at Furniture Village and I like some of their dining sets, although it might well be that we don’t buy one of those as dh and I are debating if we should take our existing set. Oh decisions, decisions.

I have to keep reigning myself in and reminding myself that whilst this is exciting and a really nice opportunity to update some of our tired pieces of furniture, I must not allow it to become an unnecessary spending fest. I am after all a steward of the money that God has blessed our family with.

I think Pinterest is the way to go for now and then I can indulge myself as much as I fancy and see what I actually end up spending my money on after a few weeks of just planning it virtually. If you have seen any great deals or have any beautiful design ideas to share then please do let me know, I really am interested.  Thanks, Mich x


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Saturday, 27 April 2013

Messy fun with the kids at Pizza Express

All kids love to get their hands in some flour and get a bit messy, don't they?

Mine certainly do and cooking at home (especially with Daddy) is one of my kids favourite activities, bearing this in mind you won't be surprised to hear they had a ball at a London Pizza Express last Saturday, along with some other bloggers and their children making pizza from scratch.


Pizza Express are relacnching their new Piccolo menu on 30th April 2013. It has had its biggest refresh since its introduction seven years ago and I have to say I like the changes. I start with the bad news, well bad from the point of view of my 9 year old JJ - there are no more dough balls with Nutella available for dessert. Of course as a mother interested in good nutritious food then I am not too worried about that.  The super delicious (I kid you not) whole fruit raspberry sorbet more than makes up for it. Never did I think I would find myself typing that sorbet is super delicious but it really is very good.

Kids Pizza Parties
I found out that Pizza Express have a real passion for #GettingKidsCooking and they are interested to help young diners become enthusiastic about great quality fresh ingredients. Our children were briefed and coached by the Pizzaiolos (chefs) to stretch their own dough, cover it in just the right amount of delicious tomato sauce and then top it according to their taste. They had such fun that I found myself asking one of the Pizza Express staff why they do not offer children's parties where the kids can get their hands dirty and have some fun and the reply was that that they do - who knew! Just £9.95 per child and they get to eat a good meal and make their own pizza. Something for me to remember in the future.



New Children's Menu
The new Piccolo menu is being billed as one that appeals to 'kids who enjoy good food' and Pizza Express have been working with a nutritionist to ensure that what can be a high calorie 'treat' meal is as good as possible for our little people. They have reduced the amount of salt in their tomato sauce, mozzarella and also tried to limit sugar where possible (ie, by removing fudge and cakey bits from kids ice cream desserts). Something like their classic starter of dough ball which has always been offered with garlic butter as a side, now comes with the choice of garlic butter (for those like my kids who love it) and an alternate with healthy fats - Olive Oil and Balsamic Syrup.Choice is what it is all about and as parents we need to ensure our kids are informed and can make those good choices for the future.

Not only can you still choose from a range of pasta and pizza on the Piccolo menu, you can now allow your child to be in charge and create their own pizza and the real selling point is that it won't cost you a penny more than the inclusive price of £6.50 for 3 courses and a Bambinoccino. How about a pizza topped with cheese, tomato sauce, ham, olive, mushrooms, chargrilled vegetables and juicy santos tomatoes?

Gluten-Free Diet
Not that any of my children have issues but it was also good to see Pizza Express taking an interest in catering to those who need a gluten-free diet and isn't it good to see a company who are thinking about their smallest customers as well as the adults?

They now have a gluten-free pizza base dough for those who need it and it has been awarded Coeliac UK's NGCI accreditation. There is also a gluten-free brownie as one of the desserts on offer.

Small Appetite?
For those who have a small appetite Pizza Express have listened to customer feedback and you can now just purchase one of the childrens main courses alone for the price of £3.95.  They are keen not to try to encourage small eaters to eat more than is necessary for their needs.

I can honestly say that we have been customers with our children at Pizza Express for a number of years now.  This was the place that introduced them to Bambinoccinos and now they are a treat they ask for quite regulalry. The new menu is a good upgrade and we will continue to be customers.

Thanks Pizza Express for a fun day....



We were happy to review the new Piccolo menu. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.
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Thursday, 25 April 2013

Playing at being Pollyanna #R2BC

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart
 
Have you ever read the book Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter or seen the 1960 film starring Hayley Mills? I love Pollyanna, I really do and I'd recommend it to anyone. Let me share with you some great quotes straight from the book -

“Oh, yes; the game was to just find something about everything to be glad about—no matter what 'twas”

“Oh, yes," nodded Pollyanna, emphatically. He [her father] said he felt better right away, that first day he thought to count 'em. He said if God took the trouble to tell us eight hundred times [in the Bible] to be glad and rejoice, He must want us to do it - SOME.”

“... there is something about everything that you can be glad about, if you keep hunting long enough to find it.”

Today for me is a a Pollyanna day, sometimes I have to remind myself how blessed I am. Yes my life is good but I do not live in a permanent bubble of gratitude and positive spirit, sometimes it takes effort. Today is one of those days.  I'd happily come on here today and grumble, so I'll try and apply the 'glad game' to those grumbles and look for the bright side.

  1. I stood in the school playground and felt a little sad this morning when I realised in 2 months my children would no longer be a part of that school and JJ would never get the year 5 teacher he was hoping for. Of course I then thought to the excitement of this Friday and our visit to the new schools to check them out. Schools with super Ofstead reports, hundreds less children and a Christian ethos at the heart
  2. It must be a hormonal time of the month as I then walked back home to collect my car for work and I realised I would not get to walk this journey every day anymore and I found myself thinking about how much I love the blossom trees and the birds singing. I had to laugh and tell myself to get a life, I'm moving onto a 220 acre estate, I bet there will be some awesome walks.
  3. Tonight a lady arrived at the door and took away my wedding dress and it surprised me I felt sad about this, she obviously knew it was a big thing as she told me she would take great care of it which was heartening but the money will also be fab to use towards my new laptop.
Have you ever played the glad game? That kind of sunny disposition can have a massive effect on those around you.

I'm looking forward to seeing what you link up this week. I probably won't make it round to everyone I'm afraid as we are away looking at new schools but I'll make sure I get to everyone who leaves me a comment. If you are new to Reasons to be Cheerful, then welcome and head over HERE to read all about it. I hope you will join in with us.

Wishing you all a very blessed weekend, Mich x

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Wednesday, 24 April 2013

A different kind of working day



Have you ever felt that you just need a break from the norm of your job?  I know I have and I'm sure most people feel the same. At SSE all 22,000 staff have the opportunity to have that day out and to be a part of their 'Community at Heart' scheme. Basically all staff can go out and do something they feel passionate about for a not-for-profit group, organisation or charity of their choice. It may be one person working on the project or it could be a whole team. I love the idea of this, it really sits well with my personal ethos.

I was sent a short video showing some of the SSE staff volunteering at the Greyhound Rescue centre in Fife. Take a look, this will give you a flavour of what is achieved through this 'Community at Heart' scheme. The Fife greyhound rescue centre homes around 40-50 dogs at a time and here they have a meaningful life where they are loved and well-cared for. Whilst at the centre they will be vaccinated, wormed and treated for fleas and often neutered and then they are put up for adoption and hopefully re homed.

I know first-hand the benefits these kind of schemes can have on moral for employees, as my husbands work operates something similar and last year he took my son to work in a London city farm project for the day, what a ball they had working side by side and at the end of the day enjoying the fruits of their labour.


If you are a not-for-profit organisation reading this then there is very good news for you.  You can apply directly for some volunteers to come and help you with a particular need you might have. This does not just mean physical bodies turning up and putting their hand to whatever you need, your requirement might be more about ideas or business help and SSE are open to all suggestions.  Just email them direct on volunteering@sse.com.

For more information about SSE, have a look at their Comunity at Heart webpage and to stay up to date you can follow them on twitter.



This post has been sponsored by Spreaditfast
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Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Compromised

That was exactly how I felt this morning when I dropped my kids at school.
I hate that feeling.
I walked away wishing I could stay home with my little Miss M. My stomach in knots,  my heart fluttering saying ‘my baby’ but my sensible head cutting through it saying ‘she’ll be OK, school will call me If they need me’…… but I don’t want to feel like that.
 I’m sure most working mums (and probably some working dads too) feel compromised and yes even guilty. I’m not one to start judging others, I truly believe in live and let live.  We all make choices in life and are accountable for those choices and as long as each of us can live with the choice we made then that is fine by me.  You probably know my belief by now – God is the only one who can judge us and thankfully He is a kind and loving God full of grace.
So I’m not writing this to attack anyone about their lifestyle choice, this is a post about me and how all day I have had the word ‘compromised’ in my mind and I’m so pleased that my family’s life is about to change and I won’t have to feel compromised any more. I can drop the kids to school and pick them up every day and if they are poorly I can stay home with them and this is so important to me.
My new word will be compromise, as averse to feeling compromised. Only a slight differing in the actual word but acres of difference in the meaning.  Our new family set-up won’t all be roses to the outside observer , what we are doing looks a bit crazy to many, especially those who do not share our faith and even some who do!  Compromise will be key - we are dropping our family’s income by two thirds and we will need to change the way we live, the holidays we take and the things we can spend our money on. But those materialistic things are nothing in comparison to the joy I feel at living in a place that is filled with God and like-minded friends, at finding a community to be a part of  and to have time and acres of beautiful countryside to enjoy being with my beloved family.
I know I should be living in the day and enjoying each one as it comes along, so I pray Lord that you help me with that. If I’m honest right now I’d love to wish it to be late June and I’ll have finished work, sold the house and be packing to start the next chapter in our family story.
I feel so blessed and my heart is overflowing with gratitude but I’m not wearing rose tinted glasses and I realise that life has the harder parts as well as those we fly though.
But what about you? How are you feeling right now? Do you feel as if you are in the right place, doing the right thing?  If not, it might be time to reflect, pray and take some time to contemplate the future and your next steps…
 
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Jargon Unchained: Don’t Be a Slave to Internet Security Confusion

Sponsored Guest post by Andrew Tipp

Image Credit
Modern families are far more digitally active than even a few years ago, and it’s pretty normal for kids as young as three to be using the household laptop or tablet to find games and videos online.

Obviously, this means that guarding against net threats is more important than ever. But the world of online security can be a confusing place for parents. There’s so much tech jargon and computer terminology it’s hard to make sense of what everything means!

Not only is this frustrating, it’s also really unconstructive. Guides for families on safe internet use should be clear, simple and easy to understand. So with this is mind, here are some explanations of common cyber threats that affect parents and their families...

Spam

In the physical world spam might be an edible foodstuff, but online it’s far more difficult to digest. Spam mostly takes the form of unwanted, unsolicited and irrelevant messages on website forums and blog comment threads - it’s like the sludgy matter found in plugholes, clogging up the web.

Most people receive spam by email and through social networks like Facebook and Twitter as well. Usually, the messages will contain links that lead to downloading computer viruses.

You should avoid clicking on links in suspicious emails, and beware of messages from people you know that just contain a single link. This guide on how to stop getting spam goes into more detail on avoiding spammy communication.

Phishing

Phishing is a trick that cyber criminals use to gain your personal data. It’s a play on the word fishing, as the criminals are trying to hook you with a technique called ‘social engineering’.

What’s social engineering? A very clever way of getting you to trust people and give them sensitive information. The scammers create a fake version of a website you trust - like Barclays, PayPal or eBay - and con you into entering your details so they can gain access to your accounts.

But why would you enter your info on a fake site? Simple: the scammers contact you through email and pretend to be from the real website they’re copying. Unlike spam, phishing scams are harder to spot as more effort has gone into making them look genuine.

Be sure never to enter your details onto any site by clicking through an email link. Always open a new browser tab or window and go to the site that way. Here’s some more info on recognising phishing scams.

Malvertisements

Malvertising is a word made from combining malware and advertising. Malware is short for malicious software - programs that infect your computer and allow people to either gain access to your data or control of your computer.

Malvertisements look just like any genuine adverts, but install the nasty malware on your computer without you knowing. This is an effective way for hackers and thieves to get put malware on your device and make your family’s life difficult - they can get at photo albums, documents, everything.

These types of adverts are more likely to be ads for drugs, gambling or adult sites. Or be on those sites. These are dark and dangerous areas of the internet, so make sure you steer well clear of them. And block your children from finding them using your safety settings and supervision.

Trojans

Trojans are another way of malware getting onto your computer. It’s when a piece of malicious software is hidden inside an apparently useful piece of software - a photo-editing app or link-shortening plug-in.

The thing you’ve downloaded seems to do the useful thing it’s supposed to be doing, but in reality it’s installing malware on your device to infect your computer or gain access to your personal information.

As you can guess, trojans are named after the Greek story of soldiers hiding in a seemingly benign gift of a wooden horse to gain access to the ancient city of Troy. They made a Brad Pitt film about it. Here’s some more advice on preventing or removing Trojan horses. (The viruses, not mythical warcraft.)

Image Credit
Scareware, Rogueware and Ransomware

Okay, these are really sneaky ways of getting malware on your family computer.

Scareware is malicious software that scares you - hence the name - into downloading software by making alerts pop up on your desktop telling you your system is getting infected with a virus. The twist is, of course, that there’s actually nothing wrong with your computer. But there probably will be once you click on the pop-up...

Like Scareware’s equally evil sibling, Rogueware is antivirus software that’s fake and used to install malware on your system when you download it. Rogueware is usually called Ramsomware if you pay for it.

Don’t fall for these types of antivirus scams - make sure you always download your virus protection software from an official and recognisable provider such as AVG.

Drive-by downloads

If you close your eyes and picture the term ‘drive-by’, you’ll probably imagine urban shootings - young gangs firing at people on the streets from their cars.

Online things are a bit different, but the sentiment is that same. The gangs are the scammers targeting helpless web surfers (the metaphorical pedestrian victims). Essentially, drive-by downloads are viruses, spyware or malware that a web user downloads onto their hardware from a website when they visit it.

You might have read about it before - it’s a pretty big threat right now. Some research suggests that for thousand websites online, at least one contains malware threat. That might not sound like a lot, but how many different websites do you visit in a month? In a year? It’s definitely an issue. Here’s some guidance on ways to defend against drive-by downloads.


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Monday, 22 April 2013

What did you want to be when you grew up? Win £50 voucher for Letterbox UK

Congratulations to Liz Denial, you are the lucky winner. I have emailed you.  Thanks, Mich x

I find it delightful how children have all these ideas of what they want to be when they grow up. The smallest amounts of time make such a difference.  I recall JJ when he was 3 years wanting to be an underground train driver like 'Underground Ernie' and then wanting to indulge his love of food by being an ice cream man when  he was about 6 years!  Now at the wise old age of 9 years he has decided that the right career for him is as an IT Manager. A very sensible for choice for one so young -we'll see how that pans out!

What about you, what did you desire as a youngster?  I know I thought I might be an artist at one stage, I pondered a career in policing and then fairly young I set my heart on a career in hotels, which was what I did for a number of years.


The gorgeous online toy retailer Letterbox are launching a new range on 1st May - the 'When I grow up' range and it is all about cultivating those early ambitions and letting the little ones act it out and have fun. Make believe and pretending to be an adult are such delights for children.  I adore listening to my twins playing schools and hearing their version of how a teacher should act.

Why not enter the giveaway to win a £50 online voucher for Letterbox and free UK P&P too?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

So who are Letterbox?
The LETTERBOX Collection is full of inspirational ideas for children of all ages. From extra special personalised gifts and traditional children’s toys, to outdoor games and educational books, LETTERBOX is bursting with over 1500 bright ideas, many of which are unique designs you won't find anywhere else. And because they know that what your children play with becomes a huge part of their lives, everything in the range is designed to aid development and learning, right through from babies to pre-teens! A unique mixture of fun, creative and educational products providing everything busy parents need for their active children all year round!

Disclosure:  I was not provided with anything to host this giveaway, sometimes it is just nice to share my good fortune and let my readers benefit!
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Saturday, 20 April 2013

5 great reasons to visit Ethiopia

If you are anything like me this is the time of year when you start to think ahead and wonder how you might holiday in the next year. I absolutely love planning for our holidays, in days gone by this might have been the time that dh and I were looking at a map and wondering where we might like to discover this year, nowadays it is more about practicalities and where will be fun for three lively children.

In October last year I spent eight days in Ethiopia; five in the capital of Addis Ababa and three in the North at Bahir Dar. I have never in my life travelled anywhere like Ethiopia before, the nearest I had probably got was the Dominican Republic.  I've mentioned in many blog posts and soundclips that I was blown away by Ethiopia, it is the most awesome place and one I fully intend to visit again in the future. It will be my privilege and pleasure to take my family there and show them the sights.

My visit to Ethiopia was very unique and quite different to what I might experience as a tourist but I saw and learnt enough to know that it would be a super place to travel to if you are happy to travel in a manner that allows you to experience the real country and not to worry about things like toilet facilities and English food.

I thought I'd share for you in words and pictures 5 great reasons to visit Ethiopia for a holiday -

1. Good hotel accommodation
In Adidis Ababa we saw lots of great hotels and the prices are pretty reasonable with our exchange rate.  There is the 4 star Intercontinental and Hilton or the 5 star Sheraton or Radisson Blu as well as many more local brand hotels of 2 or 3 star rating. Out in the countryside the hotel accommodation does become more variable but I can highly recommend the Kuritfu resorts, especially for couples. The bedrooms with their outside lounge for a romantic evening together in front of a real fire are just beautiful and very unique.



2. Fantastic food and great variety


The stews are amazing in Ethiopia, I can't recall all the names but I remember a meat stew called Wot and there was an excellent lentil one too. I am not that partial to spicy food and that was OK in Ethiopia as things were not over spicy. The national bread is Injura made with a crop that just grows in Ethiopia, it was very filling and just perfect for dipping into the stews.


3. The most amazing coffee experience - ever!
Once you have had your meal, what is better than to enjoy some coffee and boy do they do really good coffee over there? It is a full ritual, the beans are roasted by hand and popcorn is served with the strong, sweet black coffee. All you need is a tiny cup but it will keep you going for ages.

Photo credit:  ONE/ Karen Walrond

4. The landscape is beyond beautiful
One minute you feel as if you are in the UK, the next it looks like the USA and then you remember you are in Africa   There is no sea here but many beautiful lakes and why look for a beach when you can travel a country which has a little bit of everything. I'd highly recommend a visit in the lush time just after the rains stop, October when we travelled was perfect.




5.The Ethiopian people are gorgeous - both inside and out
These smiles were evident in every person we met, they are a beautiful nation of people who choose to look on the bright side and hold a very deep and reassuring faith.



Image credit for these 3 photos - Karen Walrond/ ONE

6. Interesting places to visit
Of course I was not a tourist whilst we were in Ethiopia but if you are, there are a ton of great places you can go and see. I am told it is especially good if you like visiting places of faith, such as the 'The rock-hewn churches of Lalibela', often referred to as the eight wonder of the world. Or what about visiting Lake Taha, the source of the Blue Nile and home of the spectacular Tissiat Falls.


Image Credit

Ethiopia is an amazing place, I have been home for 6 months now and it is still firmly under my skin and if I was given the chance to get back on a plane tomorrow and go back, I would!

5 things to think about when moving house

I'm a busy girl right now - the pressure is on. It is all good and exciting but I do feel as if I am making lists left, right and centre! Eleven weeks until we move... and the house is just going on the market!

I' thought it might be useful for me to share with you some of the things that you need to think through when moving house -

  1. The first thing you might do is chose your estate agent. I know some people nowadays are brave and just do it themselves but to be honest I'm too busy for that right now. I'd say get 2 or 3 agents to come and see you and don't be surprised if it is the managers who turn up, it is a hard market for them and they have to work hard right now to secure your home. I was amazed that I did not go with the cheapest quote. I went into the negotiation thinking that was my key factor and actually it wasn't, I wanted value on my property is a good time frame. Keep a really open mind and listen to all that they say. I would say go with your gut as well - who was the one you really thought would sell your house for you? That is who I went with and will pay a little more for.
  2. Don't forget to get your house ready to sell. Complete all those little snagging jobs that need doing, buyers can look at a small patch on the ceiling and worry about leaks and humongous damp problems when that was never the case  I say better to not give them any red flags. My husband and I probably spent about 20 hours in total getting our house ready and we are tidy types anyway!
  3. Do you really need everything that is in your house? Are you sure you want to pay someone to move it, removal firms will come and take an inventory so if you are not sure about that old piece of furniture  don't take it I say.  I have been amazed at how much is in my house, I'm a tidy sort, I do charity shop drops frequently and give lots away but I have come to the conclusion I obviously had too much anyway! Thanks Kate at the Five F's who reminded me to de-clutter early in the sale process.
  4. Sourcing new furniture - So if you have decided that you are getting rid of some furniture as there is no point in paying for it to be moved, you might then be in the position like me where you have to source some more. I had a recommendation from the Domestic Goddesque to shop around on ebay, apparently she furnished a 6 bed house that way and I sure it would have been stunning, that lady has good taste.  I don't quite have the time for that so I'm vising the regular retailers like M&S and John Lewis, but do make sure you ask about delivery lead time, as you need to plan that well so the furniture arrives in the early days of moving into your new property.
  5. Don't forget to engage a solicitor and pass their details to your estate agent. I have been amazed at just how expensive it is to use their services. It ranges from about £290 for an internet one to £790 for a local one (we are in Herts). But here is the bit I want to tell you - you can negotiate with solicitors, did you know that?  Am I the only stupid fool who thought they were the one thing you could not negotiate on? We have gone with a good local solicitor (based on past use and recommendation) and got a nice discount.
So that is where I am at right now, still some more sorting to be done and furniture to be ordered but I feel as if we are on track. I'll do another one of these posts to document all the next steps - you know post redirection, engaging removal firms etc etc


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Friday, 19 April 2013

Everyone loves a bit of BlogLovin - right?

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

I'm finally facing the fact that Google Reader is going and that I need to do something new to ensure that I can access all the reading material I like and that my readers can still choose to subscribe here and follow me in an easy way.

I was not surprised to find that some of my readers are far more ahead of the game than me and when I went into BlogLovin I already had 93 followers, a lovely little surprise that was!

So here I am claiming my blog as mine and then I'll get myself a nice little subscribe button and say goodbye for Google Friends Connect once and for all.  I'm a bit sad about that if I'm honest as I have loved watching the number rise and rise. I have over 800 people following me that way now and it does make me cheery, I remember when I used to write a post and put an update of my followers and it more than likely said something like 50. Times have changed.

Face up to it Mich and get with the programme.

So can I ask you kind readers to please follow me using BlogLovin or Feedly or I've heard Netvibes is good too. Basically any other reader except Google and iGoogle as they will be gone before the year is out.  Best to get sorted now I say!

Follow on Bloglovin

There is also a good app for your iPhone so you can stay up to date with yoru blog reading on the move.

Next step to sort out my feed and email subscriptions, as they are currently with feedburner and that it rumoured to be going too. Not sure what I'll more to as I don't really want to start paying.... something will come up I'm sure.

If you have any recommendations do let me know.

Cheers, Mich x
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Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Overflowing with gratitude #R2BC, week 16, year 3



Happy Thursday, How are you today?

I fill like I'm going to spill over if I'm not careful - I feel so grateful at the moment about all the changes that are going on in our life.  Yes I am beyond busy right now, but it is good and focused and importantly for me I feel it is totally led by the Lord.

Here is what is making me happy right now -
  1. My Mum was here for a few days last weekend and it was so nice to spend some time with her, I hope to have lots more of that when we move and I'm not chained to work.
  2. The kids seem to be adopting a positive attitude about our move and they are realising how wonderful it will be for them - countryside, 5 miles from the beach and Mummy home. 
  3. They also seem to have got to an age where they can play together without too much bickering - long may it last!
  4. Today the estate agent did the pictures of our house and dh was here to do the tidying and staging. We just need agreed particulars now and we are on the market!
  5. Yesterday we choose paint colours for our new house. How fabulous is that?  We can choose them and it all gets painted for us... yay! *air punch*
  6. At work we had an external trainer in today running a social media course and it went very well, some peoples eyes were opened and I even learnt a couple of new things.
  7. Talking of social media, the guru that is Maggy (of Red Ted Art fame) has reignited my passion for FB and I am vowing to start using my blog page properly. I want to get people engaging and enjoying, rather than just pushing our blog posts.
  8. This Saturday we are off to a blog event for Pizza Express and the kids will make their own pizzas. I have no idea who else is going but it is ages since I've said yes to an event so we will enjoy!
  9. I'm off work Friday and the house is tidy and clean, so I can rest, blog and enjoy....  I need that down time!
Shall I go on?  I could, honestly I'm pretty sure at least another 10 points would easily flow out. But I'll leave it there or you might feel pressured to post loads too. Of course I know that I can't compete with Kate on Thin ice as she is always the best #R2BC writer.

Now I hand over to you.... come and join in!

If you are new to Reasons to be Cheerful or #R2BC as we affectionately call it then check out HERE and read why I started this meme 2.5 years ago.  I find my outlook on life is so different when I am choosing to be happy and focusing on the positive in life, even when times are hard. Write a post (be creative, there are no real rules), pop the blog hop code in your post, link it up and go and visit a few others, leave some comment love and I'm sure others will come to you and do the same. Community is what makes a linky what it is.

Have a blessed week, Mich x

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart


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24 ways to simplify your life

Further to my simple life post the other day I found this and thought I'd share as I really like it, what do you think?

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Monday, 15 April 2013

Memories of Butlins, Minehead, 1987 - Now

Some of you will know that we went to Butlins in Minehead about a week ago, we go every year for Spring Harvest, a big Christian festival and I spend the whole year looking forward to it, it is my best holiday of the year.

While I was there it got me thinking of years gone by and the happy times I have spent at Butlins in Minehead and in fact Butlins everywhere - Bognor and Skegness too.

The first time I visited Minehead was in 1987, aged 14. I remember feeling so grown up, being able to go off for periods on my own and to meet my 'holiday mates'. We would hang around the small arcade/ games area of the clubhouse.  I can recall sharing a bedroom with my 10 year old brother, being very into fashion and taking my handbag everywhere with me and being in the swimming pool every day on this holiday. A packet of crisps and a coke in the evening were the height of sophistication as we watched the comedy act and dancing girls.

I can picture the photos taken from this holiday - in the clubhouse, in the outdoor activity pool, in the indoor leisure lagoon, on the fun fair and in the chalet. I thought I'd have a look today and see if I could find any of those old photos and it seems I have binned some but did retain a couple -


Look at the joy on my face, you would not catch me going on one of those now!


And what a naff copy of a photo but brilliant memories, we met some friends of my parents when we were there. By chance we had all come to the same place at the same time and this made the holiday even more special. My Mum and Dad look so young but then I realised that in this picture my Mum is the age I am now!

Quite a number of years then passed before I went to Minehead again, it is a fair drive from my home. So the next time I visited was in May 2005 with dh and JJ. he was just 19 months old and into everything so Bobs Yard and the outdoor pool were massive hits. It was the day that the sun shone bright and I got to read a book poolside while dh and JJ played that I really remember though -


That and JJ being young enough that we could wrap him up in the buggy and put a blanket over the front and he would sleep through the evening shows so that dh and I could still have our evenings out together.

Again a few years passed before our next visit and then it was 2012 and our visit to Spring Harvest last year.  Another week filled with awesome worship, time spent together as a family, praying, reflecting and having fun. Here is a couple of pictures that I liked of my little ladies and it makes me smile that this year they ran to the same places and asked for pictures again!


Then this year, yet another year that I will happily duplicate. Whilst this holiday was about Spring Harvest and being there for God, Butlins as the venue really is the cherry on the top. I was super impressed with our accommodation this year too and I have reviewed it over on Honest Mummy Reviews, go and take a peek.


Rock on Butlins and Spring Harvest, you do a fabulous job.

Thanks, Mich x

Disclosure: I do have a relationship with Butlins as I am an Ambassador and will be reviewing their new Bognor Regis hotel. However for this break we paid full price but was pleased to receive an upgrade from standard to silver accommodation.
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Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Reasons to be Cheerful - week 15, year 3

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart
 
Hooray, #R2BC is back here today!  It's been on holiday to my friend Clares for quite some weeks now and a big thanks goes out to her for looking after my baby so well. I tried hard to stay away from blogging during Lent but I was not entirely successful and did find myself posting sometimes.  However, I really enjoyed my time away and it gave me lots of space to think too, which was great.

I'm keeping it simple this first week back and I'm sure you know Reasons to be Cheerful is all about looking on the bright side of life and being grateful for the things that happen in our life.

This week I have so much to be grateful for, I have seen God working in many places and for that my heart sings. Top of my list still has to be our life changing move to Sussex and our new family life there, but also -
  • My Mum has come to stay and it is nice to spend some time with her, even if we are just doing some routine stuff and getting a few things sorted with my house
  • I have given in my notice at work and everyone has been very nice and understanding
  • I'm now off work until Tuesday and going to enjoy the break
  • I started to clear out the girls bedrooms today and the first three bags are ready for the charity shop
  • Dh has tided the back garden and we have a friend coming tomorrow to do all our odd jobs around the house and then the estate agents are coming to do the valuation too
  • We are meeting up with one of my good friends and her children on Friday for a good old catch up
I'm sure there are a thousand more reasons too .....

Now over to you
So what are you grateful for this week? Has something set your world on fire? Have you got a cheery post that you want to link up?

Link your post up below and then pretty please visit at least another 2 people in the linky and say hi, if we all stop by each others then it is much more fun to join in and you get to know some people too.  I have met some super friends through this linky and it is probably my favourite part of hosting it.

Wishing you a wonderful week, Mich x


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Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Review: Antler Cyberlite Medium Suitcase

I've never had a quality suitcase before, not before Antler sent me the medium Cyberlite to review and boy it really does make a difference. You can most definitely tell a quality suitcase from a run of the mill one. We used our Cyberlite case to take on holiday with the children for a week and it managed to accommodate the clothes for all three children and it was only the medium size, so that was very impressive.

The cyberlite range comes in a variety of colours - black, purple, red and lime green.  I opted for the classic black as whilst I would have liked to go for another colour I thought my husband would prefer the black if he was ever to travel alone. There are 3 sizes available and they range in price from £125 for the 2 wheel cabin luggage to £149 for the large suitcase. The medium case we received retails at £139 and weighs just 3.1kg for a case that is pretty huge really - 70 x 47 x 30/32 cm.

What did I like about the case? 
  • It really is very lightweight and was easy to lift, both empty and packed completely full of clothes
  • There are 4 sturdy wheels which means that the case can travel in all directions and does so easily.  I've never had a 4 wheel case before and it took very little time to get used to it as it was so smooth
  • There is a lock attached to the case, so no small parts that can be lost. I can set my own 3 number combination and if I was travelling abroad and Customs needed to get into my case there is a nifty TSA lock which they can unlock
  • There is also a name tag attached to the side of the case and it won't get lost
  • The strap inside which holds down the clothes once packed is a good design and clips together very easily
  • There is also a nice mesh pocket inside the lid of the case and we found this great for putting clothes hangers in
  • There are a couple of external pockets of differing sizes which make it easy for carrying the things you need to access easily
  • There is an expandable zip at the front to extend the suitcase by about an extra 2cm, this genuinely made a good difference and I was so surprised how full I could pack the case
  • The carry handle is comfy and easy to lift and pull the case along with


What I wasn't so keen on -
  • Probably the only thing my husband and I were not sure about was the side handle, it is a sort of built in pocket and I expect you would get used to it but it is just very different to what we are used to

The Antler Cyberlite comes with a 10 year warranty and that is far more than I expect, so another plus point.

You can order direct from Antler and delivery is free of charge (for orders over £20) and within 3 working days, they offer a good refund service too if you are not completely satisfied with the product. 

Overall Opinion
We loved this suitcase, it is really lightweight and looks very stylish and classy.  It is practical and easy to move about. It does cost slightly more than we might normally spend but I believe it will stand the test of time and will thus prove itself to be value.

Thank you Antler for sending us this suitcase.


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Sunday, 7 April 2013

Do I want the simple life?

Image Credit

When we went down to my husband’s new workplace a short while back I bought a book to read.  The title literally popped out and said ‘buy me’, it’s called Let. It. Go. and the strap line is ‘How to stop running the show and start walking in faith’.  First thought –‘I need a healthy dose of that’ and second ‘ekk, this could be a nightmare having a Christian bookshop in my garden!’.
If you asked me ten years ago if I was a control freak I’d tell you yes and be pretty proud of that fact but over time I’ve been learning to let it go and to relax a bit more. Life nowadays is stressful enough without me adding to it. When you think about it, it is funny how technology and advancement has added to our stress instead of taking it away. Go back a hundred years and our relatives would have been washing by hand, cooking everything from scratch and walking miles to the shop while singing to themselves for entertainment. Children looked after children as their parents were so busy, either working to provide for the ever expanding family or running the house which was a full time job.
Nowadays we can buy meals in minutes, drive to any shop our heart desires and pop a load of washing, drying and dishes on simultaneously and still we are not happy with life. There is not enough time we cry to ourselves or in my case I used to often find myself frustrated and thinking ‘for F***’s sake, I have not got time for this’.  Yes I really did need a strong word with myself to look at that attitude and realise that I did indeed have time for whatever ‘it’ was, as long as I dumped some of the meaningless stuff that had taken over my time.
Meaningless stuff like how my house is decorated or cleaned, whether the kid’s clothes matched perfectly, if my garden looked immaculate and the fact that the car was a mess. So what? All of these are niceties, none of them make a bit of difference as to whether we are all well looked after and cared for (practically and spiritually).  Most are about show and what others think.  Don’t get me wrong I do not find it easy to be able to let go of this small stuff but I realise that I must.
In a few months we will move to another county and a new home and this is mega exciting and also very daunting but some of the things niggling away at me are just stupid.  Things like we need new furniture and how will we afford to buy quality stuff? Then I stop and think surely Ikea will do, we need it to be practical and that has to be more important that the vanity aspect of having a beautiful looking home. I’m moving to a Christian centre, surely those people will not be judging my family on whether our soft furnishings perfectly match, they will be looking at how content our kids are and what it feels like to be a guest in our house.  Is it warm, do they feel welcome and relaxed? Those are the things I want to focus on, the big stuff - the children we raise, the home we build and the hospitality we offer. I think Christ would prioritise those things.
When I stand in a supermarket and see ten varieties of jam, I don’t want to have to feel stressed about which will be the best buy.  I’ll buy one and it will do the job and I’ll forget the rest, I’d like to say I’ll make my own but I expect I am quite a few years off that level of domestic bliss just yet.  I need to keep things simple and in perspective, my recent trips abroad to Ethiopia and Belarus have been super for helping me get my priorities straight and knowing that I need to let go and let God. He is here to be relied on and He wants me to be in constant communication with him.
It seems so apt that the first session I went to at Spring Harvest told me that we have a God who at the core wants to communicate – ‘in the beginning there was the word’ (John 1:1). I don’t know what challenges and changes the next few months will hold but I do know that I am very excited (and yes of course nervous too) about not working and having more time with my children, husband and God. I need to be being obedient and listening to what God wishes to tell me, that is how I will be a good disciple and be able to model that to others.
Being in control is not all it is cracked up to be. What do you need to let go of?

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