Friday, 29 November 2013

Christmas crafting - 26 more sleeps

As you know the kids are counting down the sleeps until the big day and I'm pleased to say we are now at just 26 more.  Thankfully I'm up to date with the shopping and our Christmas is being spent as part of the community here so I don't have that many preparations to be done, it is fabulous!

During the run up to Christmas the kids and I will be keeping a 'sleeps diary' as we count down in anticipation of the fun ahead, we are doing this in collaboration with Mothercare. This weekend the girls and I enjoyed some time together making some crackers for our breakfast Christmas table and also making decorations to go up on our stairway as part of our Christmas house make-over.


We used instructions and a craft pack sent to us by Cartridgesave.co.uk. They have a number of free downloadable instructions and templates for easy Christmas crafts at the moment and you might fancy having a look on http://www.cartridgesave.co.uk/christmas.

It is also worth checking out their Christmas competition if you are a blogger, as they are giving away £500 in Amazon vouchers to the blogger who uploads the best Christmas cracker that they have made and decorated themselves. You need to create your cracker using their easy guide, then write a post and share photos of your cracker and send the photos and blog URL to them on christmas@cartridgesave.co.uk by 18th December 2013.

Here are mine and Miss E's entries to their competition. Miss E wanted to copy my design and she cut and stuck it all herself, I think she did a fab job and I even prefer her finished cracker to my own!

Miss E, aged 6 years

Mummy, aged considerably older than 6 years!
As well as the crackers the girls enjoyed glass painting some decorations that we had bought and they want to give some of them away as gifts. I think they will make lovely little mementos for people. I just need to string them up.


Rebecca at Here Cme The Girls has put together a great post with 100 crafts for kids.

Disclosure: I am working with Mothercare to create a sleeps diary during December, they have provided me with PJ's for the girls and vouchers for my time. Cartridgesave sent me a craft pack to make my crackers and be able to enter their competition. I have not been instructed what to write by either party and as always I remain honest.
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Thursday, 28 November 2013

Released #Prose4T

Hello, if you have stopped by to find Reasons to be Cheerful then you need to head over to Lakes Single Mum as Becky is hosting for the rest of November and then in December it will be over with Jo at Ojo's World.
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I'm finding part of life quite hard,
it comes and attacks me, for I have no guard.

But unhappy is not the right word you see,
as in general life is as blessed as can be.

Good husband, great kids, nice home.
So many gifts, little cause to moan.

There is just this one area of my life,
it gives me so much pain and strife.

It should be easy, 'get a grip' you say,
but for some of us it just isn't that way.

I want to sort it out, I want to get better,
I know there's a need, that's why I'm writing this letter.

But there is no easy path,
it will be lots of hard work and graft.

Am I ready for that I wonder, can I take off this mask?
For unveiling makes me vulnerable and reminds me of the past.

But change has to happen, I can not go on this way,
I need to be strong each and every way.

Now is the time to stop being scared, a good example I must set,
and that means walking every day step by step.

No need to take great leaps Michelle,
every inch forward is a step out of this living hell.

Trust in the Lord and let Him be king,
then finally you will be released from this awful thing.

Thank you Jesus.

Plaque at Beachy Head, East Sussex



Michelle Pannell, 22 November 2013


Hop over and see Vic and the others who are joining in with Prose for Thought this week.
Prose for Thought
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Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Giving is receiving

All the Operation Christmas Tree shoeboxes that have been collected at my local church.
My family and I were happy to give quite a few from us.

Recently I've discovered the Pigeon Pair and Me blog written by Nell, she is embarking on a journey for a year to gift things to other people. All sorts of things. It makes for interesting reading, go and take a peek.

On 17th December she is hosting the BritMums carnival and has set the theme as a carnival of gifts and she is asking people to share where they have given something away.

This really got me thinking about the act of giving and how important it is as a biblical principle. As Christians we understand that everything we have is a gift from God and as such it is just loaned to us and we do not really own it. There is no point in accumulating wealth for the sake of it, money is to be used wisely and not stockpiled. I have to be honest and say this is a lesson that takes some getting used to when you become a Christian, as our society teaches us that if you work hard you can do well and have it all. Wealth and status are seen as indicators of success and actually this is so off the mark. Some of the most successful and content people I know are not wealthy.

Things like regularly giving other people money, putting credit on their electric meter, buying them shoes when they need them or doing grocery shopping for someone else are not the norm here in the UK, but truly they are lessons in humility and gratitude for all you have. Why should some have so much and others so little? It is easy to try and justify it by how hard you work or how lazy they appear to be but we are all Gods children and it makes Him proud to see us caring for each other. My last Church family taught me some amazing lessons in how to share what I have and I was so blessed by the progress I saw in the lives of others as the love and care we show makes a difference to them. Also just think what a great example it is showing to my children as they grow up knowing some people had very little and we opened our house to them and helped make their everyday just a little bit more comfortable.

Giving is an everyday part of my life and that is just the way I like it. I am a different person to who I was  eleven years ago before I became a Christian. I can say for sure I am a better person for all the giving I have done in that time and I look forward to finding out what else I need to give away in the future. Some might say we gave up our security when we sold our house this summer and moved to East Sussex, we now live in a borrowed house and earn just a third of what we earned before but actually the freedom we have gained has been worth it. We are now tie free and can go where God asks us to.

We are all called to be good stewards of everything God has gifted us, we must not waste the money or resources we have but discern the best way to use them. I don't always get it right but I'm learning and I'm willing and that is important.

I'm excited to see what my future holds and I know one thing for sure I receive far more than I give and in giving I receive a great deal of satisfaction.

How about you, what is your stance on giving? Does it need to be reciprocal? Or can you literally just gift it?
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Monday, 25 November 2013

So proud of you Miss E

It really is the simple things sometimes.

Well simple to me and simple to her siblings but Miss E struggles with literacy and we are wondering if there will be a diagnosis of dyslexia when she is slightly older. To be truthful, it does not matter if there is or there is not, she is still my smart little cookie and we will work with her to try and make things easier.

Today she sat down to write her name and for the first time ever she wrote it correctly first try. Normally we have a number of the letters backwards (she writes mirror image very often) but not today every single one just right. As I smiled at her and said 'Miss E, that is perfect' she looked up at me with the shy big blue eyes and beamed me the biggest smile ever and then I got my normal hug and 'Mummy, I love you'.

Well my small baby, I love you too and I know reading and writing is hard but I love your fire and your persistence to get it right. One day you will fly baby.............. hang in there!


I'm linking this post up with Jaime for Magic Moments this week, click on the badge to go over and see more treasured posts.


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Saturday, 23 November 2013

My Picture: His Words - Beauty


You may well wonder why I'm posting a picture of a mushroom my blog but this week my lesson from the Lord has been about looking for beauty in unexpected places. When you really open your eyes you can see beauty all over the place and it does not have to be classically beautiful. God sees what is in us and that is what is important to Him.

Do you fancy joining in with me and sharing any lessons you have learnt or words of wisdom you have felt shared with you. Just post a picture and some God inspired words and link up.  Then of course visit anyone else who happens to link up (I can't imagine there will be that many of us!).

Have a blessed week, Mich x

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Friday, 22 November 2013

Christmas is coming.. 33 more sleeps

The excitement is already building in our house. I know some people do not like mention of Christmas too early but as we have been making Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes since early September it feels like we really are in full swing with the festive season. Today nearly 100 boxes have gone off to be delivered to underprivileged children across the globe and the kids school has had its Christmas fete.


Christmas is such an important time to us as Christians and we will be enjoying lots of worship and time with family and friends. The Christian Centre where we live is closed for two and a half days and those days will be spent with us all (about 75/80 of us in total) in the Great Hall worshipping, playing games, watching movies, cooking for each other and sharing gifts. To say that the children are excited is the biggest understatement there is. Already they are looking at my calendar and working out how many sleeps it is until the fun starts.

The kids have started to learn their lines and songs for the Christmas performances at school and at church and I am pleased to say that my shopping is well under-way. It will be great this year to be celebrating Christmas with our community as it means I do not have to get sucked into the trap of having to go out and do a silly £200 food shop for the festive couple of days.

I've been inspired by Debbie at Johnson Babies to make some gifts for the kids teachers and the lovely Mary of Keynko who has made the kids a knitted elf ready for us to play elf on the shelf in December but more about these activities as they happen. The children have their advent calendars at the ready (just the bog standard chocolate ones) and now I have enough skills to sew them some beautiful ones for next year (did I tell you I've been taking sewing classes?).

To start getting the kids into the Christmas mood (like it was difficult) Mothercare sent the girls a beautiful padded onesie each, sadly JJ is too much of a giant and cannot fit in their clothes anymore. Such a shame, he would have loved these tartan PJs -


and looking at these little PJ's bought back memories of when I could dress the girls in mix and match clothing. In fact they has some Christmas PJ's similar to this many years back now -


Here they are the very day they received their Mothercare onesies, they literally ran upstairs and put them on and they have been on every night since (excepting wash days).

Mothercare '25 Sleeps' Competition

Ohh and while I am talking Mothercare you might be interested to hear about their '25 sleeps' advent competition.  Go and visit their Facebook page for the full details but basically you need to upload a picture of your sleeping child and 24 will be picked to feature in the online advent calendar, you'll also bag yourself some Mothercare vouchers if your child is picked.

Here is a picture I could upload for the competition, weren't they cute?



Disclosure: Mothercare have sent us some PJs and vouchers to join in with their '25 sleeps' countdown to Christmas. I'll be posting about what our family gets up to in our preparations for Christmas. They have no instructed me what to write and I'll remain honest.
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Thursday, 21 November 2013

Look at me and what do you see?

Hello, if you have stopped by to find Reasons to be Cheerful then you need to head over to Lakes Single Mum as Becky is hosting for the rest of November. I'm having a bit of a time out and sorting my own head out. I am of course still completely grateful! Have a blessed week, Mich x
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Look at me and what do you see?

Do you see the exterior, the too much white flesh,
the uneven smile and the baggy chest?
The 40 year old woman who has let herself go.

Or is it the 'front' you see, the confident blond,
the lady who can solve things with the wave of her invisible wand?

Or maybe you see superwoman with the beautiful clean home,
the stunning children and the husband who never moans?

Perhaps it is the successful blogger, rising up the charts,
making it look as if it is easy and takes no art?

Or do you look deeper and see a child of God, 
the little girl down on her knees, ready and willing to please?

The encourager who wants to build you up,
desperate to affirm you and fill your cup?

The teacher who wants to impart what she knows,
to gently lead you and guide you and help you with whatever life throws?

The prayer warrior who is silently holding you near,
the woman who cares and is available all year?

This deeper woman is me. 
I'm not just a shell and if you look properly you'll see.


Michelle Pannell 19.11.13

Hop over and see Vic and the others who are joining in with Prose for Thought this week.
Prose for Thought
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Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Come walk with me - Autumn

Back in the summer when I moved to East Sussex I posted about my morning walk and shared lots of photos of the amazing views I get to enjoy every day. Now it is November the views have changed quite considerably, so it is my pleasure to share again. Especially as I have a new star-spangled camera to take these pictures on (However after spending an age creating this little montage of them all I'm not convinced it shows them at their best, so I'll share my 3 favourites below too.

Enjoy -

Never before have I had photos with this kind of detail, can you see the dew on the apple?

The beautiful autumnal colours delight my soul

I adore the reflection in this photo


I'm linking this post up with Tara over at Sticky Fingers. Her prompt this week for the Gallery is Nature, so this seems to fit perfectly.
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Monday, 18 November 2013

#Win a bundle of 6 family Christmas DVDs #Giveaway

Congratulations to Angela Webster, you are the lucky winner. I have emailed you, please supply your address and the DVD's will be sent out to you.  Mich x

A nice little Christmas competition for you today.

Up for grabs are six super family films for your to enjoy. Included in the winners bundle will be -






(If there are availability problems, we reserve the right to substitute with another film)

You can check out my recent review of 12 Dogs of Christmas 2 and Home & Alone for Christmas if you want to know more.

Thank you to Signature Entertainment for providing this prize bundle. You can watch trailers and find out more information about all the movies on their website, go take a peek.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Sunday, 17 November 2013

My picture: His words - Sunset

Last week I treated myself to an early Christmas present and I am now the proud owner of a Panasonic Lumix G5 CSC camera. It is a beauty! Now comes the task of learning how to use it - what on earth do all those functions do?

I'm going to enjoy sharing my photos from now onwards and you can hopefully see how my skills progress. The first way I'll use them is by creating a new Sunday feature called 'My picture: His words' where I'll share a photo and some scripture. It will be inspired by where I have heard God talking to me in the last week.

Just recently God has been drawing my eyes heavenward and telling me to take my focus off myself and start to focus on Him more.  At Church Sunday I had the message that I must start to ask myself before I undertake any tasks - is this Kingdom focused, will it glorify God and do His work? If yes, I should go right ahead and dive in.....

We had the most amazing sunset here in East Sussex this week, just look -


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Friday, 15 November 2013

Christian mummy blogger would like to meet...

...other Christian mummy bloggers.

In fact not just mummy bloggers but any female bloggers who are dedicated Christians. Particularly if you are based in the UK or are an expat. I know there is a whole community of Christian mommy bloggers in the US but I am sure there are more of us here than just the handful I know about. I want to be inspired by you, encouraged by you and yes, even challenged by you.

I have a wonderful community of blogging friends around me at the moment and I am sincerely grateful for all the love and time they offer to me and each other but I have an unfulfilled need and that is to talk blogging and digital media with other women who share my faith.

We are called to be in this world and not of it and I want to have a strong group of women around me who can challenge me when I get too caught up in worldly nonsense. Women who are willing to use God's word to encourage, strengthen and rebuke me. And I want to do the same for them, let's be grateful together and rejoice in His goodness and ask the really tough questions and work through them together.

I have a vision for a group of strong Christian women coming together in a safe and private space where we can spend time in a virtual pastoral group and help each other. I was thinking of setting up a Facebook group.

Are there any Mary's out there who might like to chat to this Martha and help her develop more of the dedication and peace they know? Or I'd love to know a few more Martha's too because you can always rely on them to get things done.

So tell me, are you up for joining me in a private Facebook group where we can talk blogging and faith and get to know each other more and challenge each other to live differently and with purpose?

Leave me a comment or send me an email if you want and then friend me on Facebook, so I can invite you to join.

I really hope this works, I feel such a need for challenging Christian conversation with like minded ladies and whether you want to join the group or not if you are a Christian women who openly expresses her faith on her blog I'd love to read it and I know others would too, so please put a link in the linky below.



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Guinness World Records Book 2014 - Review & Giveaway

Big congratulations to Taylor Jones and Kate Jordan, you are the lucky winners. I have emailed you.  Please send me your addresses so that GWR can send the book direct to you. Many thanks, Mich x

You might have seen that a couple of weeks ago my family visited the head office of Guinness World Records in London. We had a fabulous day and one of the highlights was that the kids were each sent home with a new copy of the Guinness World Records 2014 book (GWR). I'll be honest, I did not think that my 6 year old twin girls would be that interested in the book and I thought I'd be able to syphon them off into the future gifts box!  How wrong was I? Apparently this book rocks for girls and boys alike and at age 6 with limited reading skills it is still fantastic fun.

So now I have three little GWR fans in our house and it makes me smile to walk into their rooms before bed and find each one of them reading the book and admiring all the big glossy photos. I think the GWR 2014 book is a really super gift for a child, not only are you providing them with entertainment but it is also educational and at school they encourage children to read all kinds of books not just straightforward fiction ones.

There is so much in this book, both fabulous quality and interesting photos and facts to blow your mind. There are some really bizarre snippets a whole ton of cuteness. Miss M was thrilled to see her favourite band ONE Direction in there and has been asking me ever since, if she can do twitter with them!

The books pages are all thick and glossy and it has a hard cover so it will last. JJ's book from 2013 was so well read and it still looks like brand new, so they stand the test of time. The book has an RRP of £20.00 but you can easily buy it in major supermarkets and book shops for £10.00 and I see it is £8.00 on Amazon.

When we were at head office Craig Glenday, the editor of the GWR book showed us the augmented reality app that you can download for free onto your ios or android product. It is super, I think it really adds to the reading experience, rather than detracting from it. Children can engage even more with the book by seeing life-size how tall the shortest lady is or charming a snake out of its basket, or maybe they want to climb Mount Everest and see what the view would look like. It can be a bit tricky at first to make sure you keep the book in the screenshot from your phone or tablet but with practise even my 6 year old's could do it.



I'll happily be buying copies of the GRW 2014 to give to my nephews as Christmas presents. It is a super book for kids and to be truthful, adults too if they like facts and figures.

I have 2 copies of the Guinness World Records 2014 book available for giveaway, would you like to win one?

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Thursday, 14 November 2013

The Lamb always wins

Hello, if you have stopped by to find Reasons to be Cheerful then you need to head over to Lakes Single Mum as Becky is hosting for the rest of November. I'm having a bit of a time out and sorting my own head out. I am of course still completely grateful! Have a blessed week, Mich x
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I'm joining in again this week with Vic for her #Prose4T linky and also Faithful Friday. I gather that the more I write the better it will become. It is an overtly faith based piece of writing this week but I don't think it should offend anyone. Here goes -

As I walk, I see the evidence, your hands creeping in and trying to choke the lifeblood out. You won't win you know? You do surely realise that. The Lamb always wins, He might get wounded or tire for a time as your efforts are so vast and so, so tiring but He will always conquer. It is a simple fact - the Lamb always win.

As I walk, I feel the need to speak out loud. To proclaim this land for the Lord, it is too special here for it to be lost. This is scared ground and it must be preserved. I see the ivy strangling the trees and the disease trying to take the life from them too but I also see the fight of the forest, the good growth comes and pushes away the old. The storm takes branches from those diseased trees and chops off the bad, leaving only room for the good to grow again.

As I walk, I know that you are trying to attack us here but I don't fear you. There is no need, the Lord is here, His spirit is with us and we welcome Him and rejoice in His presence. Where He is strong, you are weak. You are nothing. You have no power and I say it again the Lamb will win!

Be gone Satan, you have no right to here, for this is scared ground.


Prose for Thought
Faithful Friday
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Saturday, 9 November 2013

Feminism - Women for Women #blogfest

I'm writing this today as a woman with a first degree, a masters degree too and a number of professional qualifications. I've earned lots of money in my professional life and now I stay home. I look after my children, I enjoy time with my husband, I volunteer, I blog and I love it.

Do you know what that is called?

Choice.

Free choice. I'm allowed to do what suits me.

I was so frigging mad at the woman on stage today at #Blogfest (I cant even be arsed to grace her with a link) who told us that she had to return to Uni after having her baby or she would never be a good mother.

What a load of bollocks. How absolutely demeaning. OK that worked for her and it was her choice. That is OK, we can all make our own choices and I'm fine with that (well unless you are beating your kids or such).

Mums without any formal education can be brilliant parents and they can be not-so-great ones too. That's how it goes in life.

Great mothers teach their children good morals, strong values, to be kind, to be inquisitive and entrepreneurial and not to judge. Important lessons and ones that need to be taken on board by the women on stage today.

I have no idea where Mumsnet were going with the session 'can you be a mummy blogger & a feminist'?. The answer is obvious, of course you can.

I'm a mum, I'm a blogger, I make a difference, I influence people and today I learned I'm a feminist - who knew it?

Being a feminist for me is being a woman for other women, I expect equal opportunity and respect for all.

Simple really!

What's your take? Are you a feminist and a mum who happens to blog?

I'm linking this post up with Mumsnet as my entry to the Mark Warner holiday competition. They have asked for us to share one tip about having a successful family holiday.  Mine is to change your expectations - holiday's with children are wonderful when you realise that they will be different to those holidays of old. Plan your days around the needs of your children - meal and nap times and you can still have a whole ton of fun in between, especially as they get older.

From recipient to donor - Meet Kymbat

Anyone that has read this blog for any length of time will know of my love affair with Operation Christmas Child.  I adore putting the shoebox gifts together for children abroad who otherwise might go without a smile this winter. I know there are other far more important and life-saving projects and I'm involved in those too but I see no issue with giving to the big picture projects and also donating my time, effort and money to projects like Operation Christmas Child that are about offering a small bit of joy in a shoebox and also showing many children that someone, somewhere cares enough for them that they took the time to make a gift just for them.

It has been an absolute blessing to me this year to meet and get to know Kymbat, she is from Kyrgyzstan. Not only because she is a beautiful soul and part of our pastoral group but because Kymbat received shoeboxes as a child in her home country. You read the stories of adults who received boxes as children and how it touched them but nothing prepares you for meeting someone who felt the love and care of receiving a shoebox gift them-self.

This is Kymbat in the summer as she helped to pick in our kitchen garden

Kymbat came shopping with me recently to buy some items for the shoeboxes we would make as a community this year and as I picked up the toothpaste, an item that I consider really boring to add to the boxes she told me about how she loved her toothpaste in her box as it was especially for a child and had a great flavour, something her mother could not afford and that was not readily available in Kyrgyzstan ten years ago. Of course this lifted me and showed me yet again that I must trust God and his plan, things that I think boring and unnecessary are actually seen quite differently by others.

This weekend at church Kymbat's testimony of receiving her shoebox was read out by a friend of hers and there was many a wet eye in the church as we heard abut how proud Kymbat was of her pink hat, no other child had a hat as beautiful and colourful as hers. She knew for sure that someone cared when she received such a special shoebox gift.


It was with great love that Kymbat joined myself and some of the other international volunteers the other night to put together quite a number of boxes. We had a lot of fun and feel sure that many children will be blessed with these boxes filled with love.


As well as box packing, some of the fun came about as Haribo had sent us some chocolate Christmas cupcakes and fairy cakes to get us in the festive mood. These were great and the price is very reasonable at £1 for 6 fairy cakes or £1 for two very big buttercream topped cupcakes but the kids favourite was by far the 12 pack of smaller cupcakes, which I think retails for about £5. Very good value. These are all available from Tesco, Morrisons and Asda and JJ tells me we will definitely be buying more Christmas.



I think by the time we finish up, there should be about 70 completed shoeboxes from the local church and community here and that is a fabulous effort, well done all. Mich x



Disclosure: The cakes were sent to me free of charge.
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