Saturday, 29 June 2013

Thinking about using my time effectively

It has been a long time since I have posted a diet or exercise post here on the blog and it is about time I made some changes. My life has been too sedentary the last nine months or so and my waistline shows it. Thankfully I'm not any larger than I was in September 2012 when I last attempted to kick start my healthy eating and exercise but I'm already far too big and I know that being this overweight can have really severe health consequences, so I need to take this seriously.

Exercise is not something I love and that makes it even harder, I do have to force myself to do exercise for the sake of exercising and the thought of spending loads of money in the process is really off-putting, not to mention impractical given that I have just finished work. So whatever I choose to do has to be economical.

You might have seen that my family are moving to the countryside and this seems the perfect opportunity for me to get fitter. The estate I'll be living on is 220 acres of fields, woods, streams, lakes and open areas and how amazing will it be to go exploring all that land and in the process getting fitter? Then I know what I'm like once I start to lose a little weight and feel a bit more awake as I'm exercising, it then becomes a bit addictive and I want to continue with it.  I just need to make those first purposeful steps and get in the zone.

Last weekend when we went to our new home to drop dh off I was chatting to one of the staff there and she commented that she had only once in the time she has lived there walked all three lakes in one go.  I asked her how long it takes and she said only about an hour and from that an idea was born. The lady I was chatting to seems lovely and I need to make some new friends so I immediately suggested to her we might like to go walking together a few times a week.  She seemed up for that idea and said it would be a good way for us to get to know each other.

Miss M in front of one of the lakes

So this weekend I'm going down there again and I want to check out the route around the three lakes and see what I am letting myself in for.  I'm going to buy an activity tracker, like a sophisticated pedometer that will track my steps and motivate me and I need to invest in a new sports bra as I think I must finally give in and say my one is just too small and too old and we know how important good support is for us ageing ladies!

When I went to Ethiopia last October I got some nice soft trainer type shoes and they will be perfect for my walks and I already have casual bottoms and tops so I think I am all set. I'll tie my hair back, grab a bottle of water and head out into the unknown this weekend. Leaving the kids to daddy daycare, I'm sure he will have missed them immensely this week.

Then over this weekend I am also going to make a menu plan for the coming week and plan out my eating. I know that when I am planned and purposeful in my eating it is much better and I don't impulsively reach out for things I do not need.

I think it would also be a good idea to read over some of my old diet and #Mumentum posts on here, to remind myself of all the things I need to do and be aware of.  It is so easy to forget I am on a heath kick and to give in, so I must remember to drink lots of water each day, get to bed at a decent hour, make sure I have turned the laptop off by 10pm at the latest and to have snacks like carrot sticks ready prepared in the fridge.

Wish me luck, I'll keep you in the loop and let you know how I am doing. Any great tips for me?




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Friday, 28 June 2013

Absorbed in my own life.....

At the moment I feel that I am completely insular, everything is about me and my close family and whilst I realise sometimes it is necessary and that is life, it is also making me quite cross. Our move to the countryside is not going as planned, we have found out we don't own part of our front garden and that is causing issues, we have now lost two buyers and dh is already down in East Sussex, whilst the kids and I are here.

But things are starting to come together and it is always important to focus on the good parts. Yes this limbo living is hard and is costing us money we do not really have but it will all come good in the end. Thursday I accepted an offer from a buyer with no chain (please Lord help this one to work out).  The kids have their school places for September at our first choice school, our new house is now ready to move into and is fully refurbished and I've finished work so I have enough time to be seeing all my friends for proper goodbyes. Like I said, I really should not grumble.

So apart from the delayed house sale and dh being 100 miles away from me and the kids what am I cross about? I'm cross or mad or sad or angry that I have not been able to get involved with all the amazing things that are happening at the moment in regard to the fight to end extreme poverty. At least every other day an email arrives in my in-box from ONE and the IF campaign and they are all sharing with me exciting and inspiring news and I have not been able to get my head round them all.  I so want to blog and tell you about what the G8 summit achieved, how the BIG IF event in Hyde Park went and what Agit8 is but the truth is I can't right now and I need to accept that, as it helps no-one with me being mad.

Let me point you to a few places where you can read/see some good material from people who have the head space to deal with everything that is going on right now -

The One Campaign low-down (easy to read and understand) on what the G8 has achieved

Songs that change the world by Jen Howze

This great video from the BIG IF event that Lindsay (lillies are like) shared with me. Did you know there is a massive community of YouTubers who are working together to change our world?



and I can't let you go without sharing the good news with you..... these are the latest facts released by ONE to show how global assistance is making a difference to those living in poverty, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Global Progress on Ending Extreme Poverty

  • From 1990 to 2000, global extreme poverty dropped from 43% of the world’s population to 33%.
  • From 2000 to 2010, extreme poverty worldwide went down again to 21%—cutting it in half over the past twenty years. 
  • If this trajectory is continued into the future we get to the zero zone before 2030. (This one sends shivers down my spine)

Living Proof that Development Assistance Works

  • Almost 9 million people worldwide are on lifesaving HIV/AIDS medicine, up from just 300,000 in 2002.
  • Malaria has been cut by 75% in 8 African countries since 2000.
  • Over the last decade, 51 million more children in sub-Saharan Africa are going to school for the first time.
  • Since 2000, child deaths are down 2.65 million a year—that’s more than 7,200 children saved each day.
(Source:  The ONE Campaign)

Please don't think there is nothing you can do.  One signature, one tweet, one mention to a neighbour, one read of this post all come together and make a difference.  We have power as a collective and we CAN make things happen.

If you want to sign up to find out more about the ONE campaign and to be notified when new petitions are live then do that here.  Don't worry, they are a campaigning and advocacy organisation so they will never ask for your money (and in case you are worried the emails are not that frequent I just get a lot more as I am a #ONEMum)


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Thursday, 27 June 2013

A week of Gratitude - #R2BC, week 26, year 3

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart
Life is good, I really cannot moan, I'd quite like to, you understand but that's for another post, one that is not for the purpose of looking on the bright side of life and remembering how blessed I am.  Here is my week of gratitude -

Thursday - my last time alone with dh before we are separated for a month, we had a lovely pizza together and just planned our future in the countryside.

Friday - so grateful to have been picked to be a butterfly at BritMums Live, I met so many new bloggers and I hope I helped a few feel just that bit more confident about being at such a big event.

Saturday - a wonderful full-on day at BritMums Live, speaking on the Blogging for Good panel with some superstars and then arriving home to shouts of Mummy as I got off the train.


Sunday - a trip down to our new home to drop dh off, a look at our new nearly fully-refurbished house, a nice walk in the grounds and a meal and celebration with the other staff in the evening.

Monday - once home the girls and I got in our PJs very early and watched a girlie movie together, just simple family time together.

Tuesday - meeting all my old work colleagues for my official leaving lunch and then enjoying a coffee with one of them, simple and perfect.

Wednesday - the kids sports day at school.  Not something I looked forward to but they were so pleased to have me there and it gave me a chance to read my book between races!

Not sports day, as school do not like us to share those, but the kids having fun in the back garden

Blogger of the week
I'm super happy to make my #R2BC blogger of the week Fay from Glass Half Full. I first found Fay on twitter by chance and saw her blog name and though 'ohh this lady would fit well with #R2BC' and she does. Fay dips in and out as suits her and she is a real inspiration to me, she has now beat cancer twice and stayed so positive throughout. Last weeks post from her was a great one as she got her 1 year all clear! whoop, whoop!

Join in.....
If you are new here, welcome.  Do go and have a read about why I started Reasons to be Cheerful and what I feel the key to happiness is. This is a very inclusive linky, it does not come with lots of rules.  I just ask for common courtesy, write your post and link it up, say hi to me and then comment and say hi to a couple of other linked up bloggers. They should hopefully come and visit you too and we are all happy - comment love shared all round.

Tweet with #R2BC if you fancy and I'll find your tweets and RT them and come comment.

Wishing you a wonderful week ahead.  Mich x

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Monday, 24 June 2013

I sang, danced, spoke, cried and laughed at BritMums Live

Ready to start the day on Saturday

Saturday I returned from BritMums Live and boy what a whirlwind weekend it has been. I had such a fun time and loved being a BritMums butterfly, it was a real privilege to get to talk to a million and one different bloggers.  OK, that is an a bit of an exaggeration but I honestly think I managed to say hi to at least 300 people.

What did I think of the conference? Brilliant, amazing, great fun, super, emotional, touching, a privilege - there are so many words I could use to describe my time out this weekend. I hardly went to a session at all and I think that is what comes of having been to a few conferences and having blogged for quite a number of years now. This weekend was all about the people - the meals with friends, the coffee shared, the hugs (yes even the hugs and I'm so not a hugger), the frivolous conversations with people I have chatted online to for ages but never yet met in real life and meeting a whole bunch of newer bloggers for the first time. BritMums Live is brilliant, I do love it and I will be coming again next year and yes I'll be a butterfly again if they'll have me.

Finding my style...
One thing I really enjoyed this conference that I've not experienced before was a style consultation with TK Maxx. This is not the normal type of thing I would sign up for, my assumption would be that there is not that much they can do for me as I'm pretty large and that really I'm doing OK myself anyway.  I was sent to take a seat and this uber glamorous red-head greeted me with a big smile. She asked me what I was there for, what did I want to know?  Ohh, no idea I told her, I had just heard that the sessions were fab and I got brave for five minutes. I started to feel a tad nervous and gabbling about how I never did things like this as I'm fat and fat people don't have stylists.

My stunning TK Maxx stylist

I need not have worried, she was really lovely and made me feel so at ease. There wasn't any outfits for me to try on (being a large lady) and to be honest I was glad of that as it was too hot but we did go in the dressing room together and she asked if she could adjust my bra to show me the difference good underwear can make.  Well let it be known that when you hoick my bra up I look far slimmer. I always thought I did OK in terms of bra fit but it turns out I should probably go down a back size and go up two cup sizes. What a difference this made to me, my torso lengthened visibly and for the first time in years my boobs looked bigger than my belly - yay!

Never before have I seen any value in personal styling but I would definitely give it a go for real now.  I'm thinking the MAD blog awards in September will be a great time to see what someone can do for me, although of course you perhaps need to be a bit cautious with a free personal shopper/ stylist who works for a store as they have an obligation to get sales and I wonder if they might tell me I looked fabulous when really it was just OK.

It was good to hear that I am doing some things right in the style and fashion stakes. Apparently wearing patterns on my torso is a good move as this breaks up my ahem 'problem area' and then instead of the light cardi I had on Saturday I should go for dark colours to slim me down but pinning my butterfly badge just under my chest to create a soft waterfall look at the front of the cardi was a smart move.

The stylist (I really should have asked her name!) asked me what bodyshape I felt I was and I said presumably an apple as all my weight retains around the middle, I have at least 4 or 5 spare tyres instead of the classic one.  She got me to stand up and do a spin and informed me I was in fact an hourglass but I was just retaining some excess tummy weight. Ohh make my day, how fabulous to hear that if I lose some weight I would go all Jesscia Rabbit.

She told me layered tops, ones with detailing at the tummy area and those with fabrics that lift away from my tummy are the right way forward. I can even wear little belts to help accentuate my waist.  I told her I lost my waist many years ago and no she tells me I'm wrong, if my boobs are wear they should be I in fact have a good waist it is just higher than I might have thought. Apparently I'm balanced in terms of my shoulders to my hips but I could do with a narrower leg on my jeans. She confirmed that I'm right to go with high-waisted jeans so I don't get cut in the middle.

I was interested to hear that if I am wearing light colours on my top half I should go bold with my lipstick to give a focal point but if I am wearing bold and dark colours on top then no lipstick is necessary, it is all about my eyes. Of course the suggestion came up that I should wears heels sometimes, particularly wedges and do I really like wedges but the comfort factor is so much more with flats I find.

All this advice managed to fit into about ten minutes and I was a happy lady. I have a £100 Debenhams voucher at the moment and I'll be scheduling myself a bra fitting in the near future.  I have always thought that £25 was a lot of money for a bra but after this advice I imagine I might be spending a whole lot more than that!

With the beautiful Butterflies (image credit - A Residence)

Speaking with confidence
I sat on a panel on Saturday afternoon to talk about what it is like to work with charities, we only attracted a small intimate audience and this was great as it meant we could really chat to people and answer their questions. Check out my top tips post if you would like to work with charities and you can see what happened on my blogger journeys to Ethiopia and Belarus last year for a flavour of how things can work with blogger/ charity partnerships.

If you fancy watching the session I was part of or any of the other events held in BritMums 1 (the main room) including the wonderful events mentioned below then click here.

The highlight of the event...
Had to be the blogger keynote speakers and the tribute to Kerry (Our own Multiple Mummy). It was an immense privilege to end the conference singing my heart out to 'Kerry you are a firework' and remembering her beauty and contribution to parent blogging. It was also special to honour the other MM Matilda Mae and I was so proud to watch Jennie conduct herself with such elegance cross the whole weekend. Kylie from Not even a bag of sugar also excelled herself reading her post 'Jimmy Saville is Dead'. Then as a tonic to the sadness it was great to laugh along with some fabulous bloggers with more light hearted posts.

Watch out for me at BritMums Live 2014 I hope to be arriving a much more clothes confident Mich than I did this year.......  see you then.
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Sunday, 23 June 2013

A Guide to Family Days Out at the Beach

Getting the family together for a day out can be a pain to organise, and making sure that you remember to bring everything and that the kids don’t kill each other in the process of getting everyone in the car and on their way can be a feat within itself. Thankfully, if you do a little planning and preparation beforehand you can avert most disasters and ensure everyone is happy and having fun.

Before you set off

Do a little research into the beach you’re visiting. There’s nothing worse than heading out for a day at the seaside to find that there are no facilities, or the beach is too crowded and there’s no room for a towel!

You’ll probably know a lot about your local beaches, but look up where other beaches are further afield. If you’ve in the East, you could check out Hemsby or Summerfields on the Norfolk coast – they’re only a hop from some great family holiday parks.



Most council websites have details of the facilities available on the beaches and websites like the Good Beach Guide also list the water quality of the beaches and any potential safety hazards. Another thing to consider is parking as many popular seaside resorts have expensive or limited parking on the sea front.

Don’t tempt fate and drive around for ages having arguments with your significant other because all the spots are full. Parkopedia is a convenient site to check and lists parking on a map by price and type of parking.

Things to bring with you

Once you’ve decided on where you’re going to spend your family day out at the beach make sure you bring a good supply of essentials with you.

It goes without saying that you’ll need sunscreen, however don’t use the same sunscreen you use on yourself on your children. Kids need a high sun factor sun cream usually SPF 30 and above, and babies and young tots need a higher SPF as their skin is thinner and more sensitive to the sun. Don’t forget to protect yourself too – there’s nothing worse than going home looking like a lobster at the end of the day!

Get a cool box and a good supply of water to take with you too. Beach-side food and drink is really expensive, so it will save you money. In addition to this, having a cool supply of ice and water to hand can be useful if anyone overheats. A first aid kit is also vital at the beach, with hazards such as broken glass, stings from insects and bumps and grazes all very likely if you have accident-prone children.

Keep everyone entertained

The first thing your kids will be bugging you about is a bucket and spade so make sure they each have their own one – they won’t want to share one between them! Balls, inflatable rubber rings and Frisbees are also a good way of keeping them happy for five minutes.

For a long-term way to keep them occupied a scavenger hunt is a good idea. You can award a prize once they complete the list and it can also be educational if they have to look for things that they have never heard of before. Websites such as Mumsnet and other parenting sites are always a good place to get a list of items from.

Bring a reference guide along too. The internet can be unreliable on the beach, so having a book with a clear guide to animals and wildlife on the beach means you can show your kids the delights of the ocean without having to rely on Wikipedia loading up!

Encourage the kids to collect some of their favourite shells and pebbles too. They’re great for art projects and are also a reminder of the day at the beach.



Practical advice

Beaches are great fun but come with some annoyances such as sand getting everywhere and water making everything wet. If you combine kids and pets into the picture then everything is going to be pretty messy at the end of the day!

Invest in a waterproof money pouch so you can keep all your valuables on you and go in the sea with the kids at the same time. You can also purchase waterproof cases for your phone, so even if you don’t go in the water your valuables will be protected from any unwanted splashes.

If your local beach is pebbly then buying some swimming shoes can prevent your kids from complaining about walking on the pebbles barefoot, one of the things that most people hate about going to stony beaches.

On the other hand, if you’ve spent the day at a sandy beach it can be pesky getting rid of all the grains of sand and you’ll undoubtedly find it in your car for months after. Keep a big bottle of water in the car with a clean towel and clean off all your family members’ feet before getting in the car. It might not get every grain off but it’s an effective way to ensure that you won’t be making sandcastles in the back of your car for weeks to come.

Most importantly have fun, keep safe and you’ll have a day out at the beach that you’ll remember forever. Just don’t forget your camera!

This is a guest post but I have NOT been paid to host it.

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Saturday, 22 June 2013

BritMums Live - My Tips for successful Blogger/ Charity Partnerships



Today at BritMums Live I was sitting on a panel with some other great women, we were speaking about what it is like to work with charities and NGO's (Non-governmental organisations) as bloggers.  As part of that session I shared my top tips and I thought it was only right to share them here too and that way if you could not make the conference you can still have a read.

Michelle's tips for successful blogger/ charity partnerships

Choosing which charities to work with
• Don’t be afraid to make the first move. Blog about your chosen charity and then contact them and see if they have ideas of how you can help further. Don’t just wait to be contacted, they may not even realise the power of social media.

• Remember that charity is a very personal thing, don’t be bullied by a PR or the crowd/ other bloggers to get involved with a campaign that does not float your boat.

• Have a 'no response' already written and stand your ground when you get approached by charities that do not fit your criteria. I'm happy to let them know that I have my favoured charities that I blog for and I wish them luck with their campaign.  One person cannot be everywhere doing everything.

Establishing a relationship
• Treat every charity as an individual; find out their needs and requirements. What will they provide and what do they want in return? We hate approaches that treat us bloggers as all one and the same and charities are no different.  Ask questions, don't assume you know what they want or what fits in with their ethics and strategy.

• When working with your chosen charity establish their aim for this campaign (or trip if appropriate). Again don't make any assumptions. Not all campaigns are about making the biggest twitter noise ever, some are purely to increase awareness, to sign up new volunteers, to gain petition signatures and so on.

• Be clear in your own mind what you will and won’t do for your chosen charity/ cause. Whatever you agree to, you want to be able to fulfil and do well whilst feeling comfortable with your choices.

• We have to face the fact that some charities or their PR agents who contact us will make rubbish pitches, offer bog-standard information and give you short deadlines. Just because they are not social media experts does not mean you should not work with them. If you support their cause and like their campaign then help them by lending them your creativity and showing them the power of social media and how they can use it.

• If you want to forge an ongoing relationship with a particular charity then try and meet face to face with a representative to learn more about them and establish the best way forward. Personal relationships are at the heart of it.

Writing a post for your chosen charity
• Inject yourself into every post. Copy and pasted information impacts far less people than when you make yourself vulnerable and share how you really feel about a campaign. Link to everyday life and make it real for your readers.

• Offer your readers accessible options of how to get involved – break it down and make it easy - if you have 1 minute, 5 minutes, 1 hour etc you can.....

• Be honest - don’t be afraid to tell the truth and say you don’t know everything there is to know about all the politics surrounding the charity. Take questions if necessary and direct them appropriately/ find the information out.

• Be ready to take some stick on behalf of your charity if you really believe in them. I receive lots of negative comments for my choice to work with Samaritans Purse, an evangelical Christian charity but I believe in what they do and thus am happy to defend my position, whilst acknowledging things might be different for you.

Finally....
• Remember not every blogger/ charity relationship will result in a life-changing trip abroad and if you are offered one then think it through really carefully - yes, they are amazing but also hard work and heart-wrenching as real-life goes on.

I'll write another post in the next few weeks with my top tips about travelling abroad with a charity and all the things you need to think through and do to plan for your trip.

Thanks for reading, Mich x

How cute are these little guys?  Some children I met in the slums of Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia

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Friday, 21 June 2013

It's so important that kids want to play outside

I expect every parent knows how important it is for their children to lead an active life and probably many, especially those with older children know it can be a struggle to get your kids to want to go out and do something physical in the garden, but all that fresh air, it is so good for them.

It is amazing how things change, when I was the age of my oldest child (nearly 10) I went out into the street and played every day. All the local kids would come out together and we would happily play games such as 20/20 Home, It, Stuck in the Mud and then make believe we were in our favourite TV shows like the A-Team and Chips. Nowadays my JJ is happiest on his computer playing online building a world, chatting to his friends. Fine in moderation but like everything in life balance is key.


Of course it is my role as a parent to ensure that JJ does get outside and we take regular trips to the park, adventure playground, lake, woods etc but not every day have I got the time to head out somewhere.  Life dictates that there is work I have to do, dinner to cook, the house to clean etc and that means the children have to play at home and in our garden. Recently JJ and his sisters have taken to playing 'sports club' and they make a little course up with the trampoline, balls, hoops, skipping ropes etc.  It is great to watch them having fun and hear their giggles in the garden.

One of their favourite activities at the moment is trampoline football and I do worry they will hurt themselves but they just love it and I can't say no to them getting all that exercise. Not only does it help them sleep well, it is also establishing the pattern of being active, which I hope will carry through to adulthood. JJ had occupational therapy for a couple of years as he was always clumsy and had balance issues and again sports like football and all physical exercise in facts really helps him. I have seen his coordination improve no end in the last year or so.

When he came home from school one day and said he wanted to join a local football club I was over the moon and he seemed to really enjoy it at first but sadly he soon found it far too cold training outside in the winter months and he lost motivation when the better footballers did not pass the ball to him so much.  So back to the garden football it was and he is much happier to do that when friends come round to play now.  The only issue now is the balls over in next doors garden!


You may have read that in a month or so we are moving to a new countryside home and JJ is already talking about the football goals and basketball nets that are onsite at our new home.  I can see all our family having fun together heading out to kick the ball around and see who can score the most goals. I'm looking forward to this new life, things are going to change for us all.... for the better I hope.

If you fancy encouraging your children to play out more then check out the range of garden football goals available from http://www.thesoccerstore.co.uk/football-goals



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Thursday, 20 June 2013

Grateful for time #R2BC week 25, year 3

This week I am really grateful to have time on my side.  We were supposed to move next week but that is not happening, now dh will go this Sunday as planned and he starts work on Monday but the kids and I will stay here until the end of July and hopefully our sale will complete then.

I've now finished work, so I have some time over the next 3-4 weeks to really focus on me and I have badly neglected myself over the last few ultra busy years. This is what I am looking forward to -


I am of course also really excited about BritMums Live tomorrow, catching up with all my old friends, meeting lots of new ones and learning a few new blogger tricks is a very tempting proposition.  I hope I get to meet some of you there, please forgive me if I don't recognise you but if you see me on the butterfly stall do come and say hi, I'm sure I'll know your blog name.

Blogger of the Week

Talk of BritMums Live leads me on nicely to our blogger of the week.  This week my shout-out is for Ruth of DorkyMum, she dips in and out of #R2BC as the mood and her life circumstances dictate and I like that, we are here for the every week and the infrequent joiner alike.  On Saturday Ruth is sitting on the Blogging for Good panel with me and that will help steady my nerves, knowing she is there too. She is a lady who has such integrity and is good fun as well. Her blog is extremely well written and she is not afraid to say what she thinks. Go check her out...

Now it is your turn
I'm handing the baton to you and it is your turn to let us all know what is making you cheerful and grateful this week.  Write up your post, add in the blog-hop code, link up and then visit a few other people to comment.  I will aim to get round very one this week, even if it is Monday.  Sorry I didn't get to visit you last week, time escaped me and I was poorly and uber stressed with our house move (or lack of more correctly).

Wishing you a fabulous weekend whatever you are doing.  If you are coming to BritMums Live you will spot me pretty much attached at the hip to this one -

Seasider Clare and I in January this year

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Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Blogging for Good session at BritMums Live

This coming Saturday I'll be really pleased to join a group of fabulous women to sit on a panel at the BritMums Live conference.

Our session is titled 'Blogging for Good: how to blog better working with charities'.  From my understanding, our session will be informative but very open and friendly, do please come with any burning questions you have.  If you are dying to start working with a specific charity then ask us how we got started, if you want to be able to rally others then we can give you some insight on that, if you would like help making the decision about which charity to work with then we can let you know how we went through that thought process too. No question is too big or too small - we will aim to tackle them all, as long as they are charity/ cause related.

There is a good mix of panelists, we all come from different experience and walks of life -

First off, you have me and if you are a reader here, you will know I'm a pretty average Mum and I feel compelled to do my bit and fight for a better world because of my Christian faith and fundamental belief that we all should be equal.

Then you have Ruth from Dorky Mum and she is a lady I have a whole lot of respect for. She knows her mind and knows what she stands for and many a time she has helped me question my own values and thought processes to come to well-informed decisions about working with charities and who to support. Ruth started out as a student activist and then her early employment was as a full-time environmental campaigner and she volunteers for a whole host of charities and good causes.

Next is Jennifer James of Mom Bloggers Club and Mom Bloggers for Social Good and I'm very excited to get to meet Jennifer.  I'm sure I'll go all shy and forget how to speak. She is one of those awesome women that are making a difference every day and pulling together thousands of other Moms and Mums to stand together and use their unified voice to fight for social good. She is a big hit in the US blogging scene, it will be good to hear what they are doing differently over the pond.

Last up is Rosie Childs, Digital Media Manager at Save the Children and I have to say of all the charities I have worked with STC know exactly how to engage and work with bloggers.  They are the first charity who set me on fire and I was proud to help promote the #Healthworkers campaign with a very successful meme that @helloitsgemma and I hosted.

I won't give away any spoilers, if you want to know what we will talk about then you need to come along to the conference on Saturday at 3pm to BritMums 1 and if you can't be there I'll share the session afterwards on this blog.

I'll leave you with a hang-out I recently did with BritMums where they asked me some questions about what it is like to travel as a blogger for a charity and cause.




I hope to see you at BritMums Live at the weekend, I'm also one of the butterflies  so you will find me slitting all over the place and there should be a big smile plastered on my face!

Mich x


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Monday, 17 June 2013

Fathers Day at Legoland, Windsor

Legoland is not perhaps your first though of somewhere to take your husband for Fathers Day but I'm really pleased to say that my husband had a fab day today. Life is so different once you have kids, there is a lot of enjoyment in seeing them have a great time.

And thanks to the Mad Blog Awards we all had a great time today with a whole bunch of other finalists on our #MadDayOut.

If you want to read my review of Legoland Windsor then click that link, check out my recent post about the new Lego Duplo Valley and I'll be writing soon about the new 4D show at the Imagination Theatre - Legends of Chima, it is excellent but for now this is just a post sharing our family time for Fathers Day 2013.








I really needed this chilled day to forget about the stress of moving house. I'm praying for good news tomorrow.......
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Sunday, 16 June 2013

Does your employer offer you a good benefits package?

I've had a bit of an awakening this week as I read a recent report commissioned by income protection provider Unum called 'Keeping Pace? Financial insecurity in the modern workforce'. I've said before that I enjoy my work and I know I'm lucky to be with a public sector employer as this means I have good stability in my job but what I realised I have taken for granted are all the great employer benefits offered to me.

When Mumsnet confirmed they would like me to write a post about my employer provided benefits I spoke to a few blogger friends, mentioning I was excited to write this post. I was startled when one friend, who is employed full-time, commented that she could not apply for this as she did not get any benefits in her job. Then another mentioned that being self-employed she had very limited benefits offered to her. Of course, not everyone is as lucky as me in their employment, I forgot this.

These comments from just a couple of my friends certainly match the findings in the Unum report that there is a significant gap between what a modern day workforce requires and what is provided by many companies. The demographics of workers has changed in the last thirty years and now we have more female, part-time, non-British and disabled employees working in the UK. The disparity of the benefits offered and what the modern employee requires can be vast. The report found that today fewer employers offer generous pension schemes and occupational sick pay. Again I can count myself fortunate as I benefit from both of these, I have a final salary pension scheme and a generous provision for sickness.

For the last nine years I have worked within Human Resources (HR) at a large, modern University and this means that I have a full suite of benefits available to me, so many that if I was to just try to reel them off the top of my head to you now I would forget at least half as there are so many. Now I don't know if some of my positive attitude comes from the fact that I work in HR and therefore I know about the benefits and also I am willing to recognise all relevant offers as benefits. I suppose it might be easy for staff in other areas to dismiss benefits such as flexitime in regards to working hours, wellbeing events and free book loans as they are non-financial.

Working in HR I have had input into ensuring that staff know about the benefits on offer to them and we have developed a one hour welcome meeting with HR for all new staff within their first week of employment. At this they are introduced to our intranet site and shown where all the benefits are detailed, this ensures they have that knowledge of what they can access from a very early stage in their career. At about the three month point all staff attend a central induction event and one of the sessions is around the employment experience. This is an interactive session where staff talk about the benefits they are aware of and share ideas between the fifty attendees.  The facilitators then draw their attention to benefits they might not be aware of, both those with a financial implication such as discounted bus fares, meals and childcare vouchers and those without, like the on site multi-faith centre and flexible working arrangements.

The University realise that they need to do more to help long-term staff recognise the full suite of benefits available to them and currently there are talks about how this awareness can be raised.

Personally I believe that my current benefits are very generous, I receive good holiday provision, additional pay on University closure days, final salary pension scheme, childcare vouchers, Christmas bonus vouchers, flexi-time, flexible working arrangements, discounted bus travel, discounted catering provision, free book loans, cycle to work scheme, discounted gym membership, discounted access to arts and cultural events, wellbeing events, counselling service, access to free legal helplines, reduced-cost on-site nursery, opt-in health care and generous occupational sick and maternity pay. As well as fabulous access to central support departments such as occupational health, disability services, health and safety and the equality office.

It is not just in writing that these benefits looks good, in the nine years I have been with my employer I have been on maternity leave, taken parental leave, worked from home and used the flexible working arrangements to change my working pattern on at least three different occasions.  I have also had a six week period off sick and gone back to work on a staged basis.  They paid for me to Undertake my Ma in Human Resources and gave me time to undertake this. The only thing that they do not seem to offer that Unum have recommended employers should consider is income protection, this would mean if I could not attend work due to critical illness or such I would continue to be paid and could have my mind at ease about continuing with my caring responsibilities.

To be honest I have never heard of an employer offering this, none of mine have that I'm aware of and at one point I worked for Pepsi.  My husband tells me that his current employer offers this income protection insurance though so it is obviously becoming more common. You don't have to tell me that I am lucky to be employed by my University, I fully realise this.

Do you know what your employer is offering you? Unum would like to encourage all Mumsnetters in employment to #askHR about what employer provided benefits they are currently entitled to, and to report back on whether their current employer provided benefits package is fit for purpose. 




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Saturday, 15 June 2013

Enjoy the silence

Dh came home from work Saturday and sat down to watch some TV to unwind and he was bang out of luck.  The Virgin Media box seems to have given up and they can't come until Tuesday to fix it, well we are both busy Tuesday so Wednesday it is and you know what I have loved it without the TV.

So often it gets put on as background noise and the kids will be playing, colouring etc and then they get distracted by the TV and you know how it is sometimes, you can hardly get an answer from them as they are  glued to some silly program like iCarly or Jessie.

These few days without the TV have seen our kids play together more, play outside more and get the Lego out to build a city together - hoorah!



JJ is slightly concerned that these days of abstinence have put ideas into Mummy and Daddy's head and yes they have. We won't have cable TV at our new house and we will probably have some very firm rules about how much it can be on.

Dh and I were talking tonight about when we were kids and there was only a few hours in a week when they showed programs we wanted to watch and you looked forward to those times.

This is the way forward for our new life in the country.

Living instead of watching!

Tell me how you mange the TV in your house, do you have rules? time limits? set boundaries?  I'm interested to find out more....


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Friday, 14 June 2013

My Dad is a superhero, is yours?

I know I am really fortunate to have a great Dad, we have always had a good relationship and I feel I can talk to him about whatever I need to.  He is my superhero and he is the guy I know I can go to with any problem and he will help me deal with it. He is a funny guy, as he appears to get het up with the smallest of things and he really worries for those he loves and likes them to stay nice and safe, taking no risks at all. However take something really big and important to him and he is that rock that we all need to help us sort problems and make decisions.

With Fathers Day fast approaching us Fragrance Direct have done a survey and asked the British public if their Dad was a superhero who he might be.  I suspect if  had to I pigeon hole my Dad I would name him as superman, as he always swoops in to save the day. I'm not alone as 26% of people surveyed said their dad was most like superman, obvious really I suppose.  We see all those fathers day card with big superdad logos on the front and I know I have certainly over the years probably addressed my cards to super dad!

I was out with JJ yesterday afternoon and our conversation went something like this -

Me - 'Is Daddy a superhero?'

JJ - giggles at me and then said 'no Mum' with quite a straight face.

Me -  'Is Daddy a good dad?'

JJ - with an exasperated look this time 'yes Mum, he is the best'

Me - 'well then, surely he must be like one of the superheros?'

JJ - after a long pause and some thought. 'He is the Hulk Mum'

I burst out laughing at this and said 'surely the Hulk is not a superhero, all he does is burst out of his clothes and be massive'

JJ - 'yes, exactly Mum!'

Hmm, lets just hope my husband does not read this! I can assure you he has far more super qualities than his sheer size.


JJ and his 'Hulk' of a Dad

The Fragrance Direct research also found that some respondents gave some equally funny answers and examples are Thor ('because he is brilliant with a hammer'), Spider-man ('because he drives people up the wall') and Danger Mouse ('he has big ears and long whiskers'). JJ's Hulk answer does not seem quite so bad now!

Batman came a close second to Superman in the responses (with 6%) and that surprised me a little as there has been far more publicity and films about Batman in the last ten years than there has been Superman.  I asked JJ (who is nearly 10) what he knew about Superman and he could tell me that he flies around, saves a woman and has a strange S on his chest - the legend lives on! Which will please my husband as he is a superman fan and I'm sure we will be off to see the new movie in the summer. Far better than the Hulk, I'm positive.

So how about your Dad, is he a superhero? Personally I think it is a great way to think of our own Dads, it surely speaks heaps about the relationship, if you can feel like that about them.


Thanks to Fragrance Direct for providing me with the results of their survey and congratulations to the three lucky respondents who won fragrance from the Marc Jacobs range.

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Thursday, 13 June 2013

Reasons to be Cheerful Vlog - week 24, year 3 #R2BC

Hello all, happy Thursday, I hope the week is going really well for you.

You can catch me on film this week -



Blogger of the Week
It is the turn of Glenda this week.  She is another blogger who started to join in with Reasons to be Cheerful back in 2011 when it first started.

I first chatted to Glenda as she approached me to review some of the kids cutlery that her company sells (it is really great I have to say, it still looks like new even now) and then she started to blog about all the food related and family things that were making her cheerful.  I like seeing Glenda linked up for #R2BC as I know her posts will always give me something just a little different.


Over to you..... 
Tell us all what is making you cheerful this week? Link up your post, add in the blog hop code and go and visit some other bloggers and share the love. Comments cost nothing but make people smile.
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Tuesday, 11 June 2013

I can do all things...

It is a busy time for me at the moment, what with relocating, the children moving schools, dh and I both finishing our jobs, dh starting a new one, I'm starting a business and the normal day-to-day managing the lives of a family of five. Today I have been off work but I had a bit of mental to-do list, it got to about 4.30pm and I was sat in John Lewis enjoying tea and cake and many, many things were ticked off that list.  I feel good but I don't feel smug. I know that every time something goes right in my life I need to give thanks and praise to the Lord, for He is good.  It is Him who gives me the strength, skills and aptitude to get though all the little things that life throws at us.


Yesterday I have managed to make the beds, empty and load the dishwasher, put a wash on and make a lasagne before I took the kids to school at 8.30am. Once back I made a couple of movies for Fathers Day as gifts for dh and my Dad. Then it was an hour conference call with my new client that I am excited to start work with in July (more to be revealed soon). After that some general blog maintenance, emails and whooping for joy on Facebook, followed by lunch and a couple of phone calls. Work emails came next and then packing up my bedroom ready for the big movie. Ten boxes later and it was time to head out. Oh and don't forget I sorted out the dry washing and put it away before popping another load on before I left the house.

My trip out included a charity shop drop, collection from the sorting office, sending my Dads fathers day gift, going to B&Q for an ariel, getting petrol and going through the car wash.  Then heading to town to get some money out, go to the jewellers, buy some teacher leaving presents, meet dh off the train and enjoy tea and cake in John Lewis (while doing a spot of blogging (this post).


When we got home there was tea to cook, serve up and clear away, the kids to shower and read with, certificates to be made for the work away-day I'm helping to run and a choice of 4 or 5 other tasks from the list.

As I type this Monday afternoon - I feel really good, I am enjoying this hour to myself and a time to blog and enjoy. I really can recommend John Lewis chocolate victoria sponge cake - divine!  But then at £3.50 a slice, you expect it to be... but this was my 'me time' for the day so I'll enjoy it and not be distracted and moan about the cost.

What I come back to at the end of each day is this -
Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

To God be the glory.

This morning Liska tweeted me and said she was starting a new Tuesday linky called 'T'you'sDay' and it is all about us parents carving out some 'me time'. I tweeted her back and said I'd join in once I moved as I did not expect to get much 'me time' before that but then today sitting here in John Lewis I was reflecting that I have had a lot of 'me time' today.  The things I had to do were mainly things I wanted to do and were about me and my family.  I did not begrudge doing any of them.  Then the last hour sitting and blogging and then being joined by my husband was just perfect.

For me all I had to do was change my perspective and I had carved out some me time!


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