Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Dear So and So - A Bloggy One


Dear PR person,

I know it is your job and I am sure you are very lovely so I don't want to be unkind to you, but do you realise that because I've been blogging such a long time now I get about 50 emails a day asking me to tweet, post, share etc and I just cannot do them all? In fact I don't even want to do them all even if I had infinite time as my readership would be bored to tears!

I'm a busy woman with three kids, a husband and three voluntary jobs, as well as my campaigning and paid writing work. I have no spare capacity to read all your press releases and then to promote your products for free. I won't be rude to you but at the moment I'm struggling to respond to every email, so please do not chase me 2 or 3 days after your email if you've not heard from me.  Just know that I can't do it right now but leave me on your mailing list and next time I might be able to help.

Thanks a lot,

Michelle (not Mummy from the Heart as so many people love to address me! grr)
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Sunday, 28 June 2015

Digital Activism - Why bother?

I can't find who to credit this picture to but thank you and let me know if it is you!

Last Saturday I was privileged to be part of a session at Britmums Live on the subject of digital activism and how it's shaping the world we live in. The 40 minutes went past way too fast and I don't feel I got to share all the information I wanted to, so here I am sharing the rest (and a few things I did get the chance to say for those of you who didn't make it to the session).First off let me reassure you that digital activism does work, it is not just slactivism or armchair activism as some people call it. I can give you so many examples of where bloggers have made a difference; we have a voice,
influence and credibility.

Digital activism works
Here is just a couple of examples - back in 2011 Chris Mosler was heading off to the US for a UN General assembly after her trip to Mozambique with Save the Children (STC). About 30 bloggers have been at a STC conference that day and at the end Hello it's Gemma and I wanted to do something to increase the amount of people who had signed the #healthworkers petition and show the UN assembly the strength of opinion on the need to fund more health workers in developing countries. So we set the challenge for bloggers to write 100 words on what their midwife meant to them and we targeted ourselves to get 100 posts live. Within 36 hours there were 164 posts shared and linked up and over a million impressions on twitter. It was an awesome time and possibly the most viral post I've ever had with in excess of 35,000 hits on that page within about a week.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Making Flying easy with Park, Stay and Go at Crown Plaza Heathrow


Our family has never travelled abroad together and this is something I am determined to change in the next year. We don't need to go anywhere massively expensive or fancy like Barbados or Australia, we just want to get away and enjoy the sun, a new culture, some authentic local food and time together.

As this post goes live a load of my blogger friends and their families are off to Corsica, a French island off the coast of Italy with Mark Warner and I have to be honest and say I am more than a little green with envy. Our family would love to have travelled with them and joined in with the sailing, kayaking and cycling but alas JJ has transition days for secondary school and it is super busy at dh's work so this next week doesn't work for us.

It has been a frenzy on FaceBook these last few days with people getting ready and organising cars and airport transfers and I was happy to point them to the fabulous Park, Stay and Go offer at the Heathrow Crown Plaza Hotel. Why would you bother trying to get to Heathrow on the day of your flight when you can arrive there the day before, enjoy a swim in the pool, eat dinner at your leisure and stay in a luxury hotel room? Then also have the peace of mind knowing your car is being looked after in the special parking areas for park, stay and go guests.

Friday, 26 June 2015

The Excitement is Building for Shrek's Adventure! London


My kids are starting to get really excited. You would think that I might have learnt by now, not to tell them we are going somewhere amazing until the day we are due to go but I can't keep the surprise and I love to see their excitement. I just find it a bit hard to put up with the constant questions for over two weeks!

Have you heard there is a new family attraction opening on the South Bank, London? Right by the aquarium and Coca Cola London Eye there will be Shrek's Adventure! - a unique walk and ride attraction for the whole family. Step into the kingdom of Far Far Away and enjoy a brand new madcap Shrek adventure where amazing DreamWorks animation, captivating story-telling and a good dose of Donkey’s cheekiness awaits.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Pressure, pressure everywhere


It is a crazy old world we live in nowadays; everyone and everything is so driven, so target focused and so opinionated. Whatever happened to live and let live? Or don't worry, be happy? OK they are cliches but for me I don't think they will ever go out of date.

I've come to realise that many of the things that make me unhappy or uneasy are from the pressure I feel. Pressure to conform, to be perfect, to be online everywhere, to be the best parent, have the most successful blog and to always succeed. Logically I know none of these things are right, never once did Jesus say 'my disciples, you must strive to be the best and only then will I accept you'. No, never. 

Instead what bible says is 'For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.' (John 3:16 ESV) That message is for every one of us, He accepts and loves all of us, we just have to make the choice to accept Him back, I also love the verse that days  'Look at the birds. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren't you far more valuable to him than they are?' (Matthew 6:26 NLT).

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Dear So and So - Britmums Live 2015


Dear Clare,

Thanks for being my roomie yet again but sorry the Travelodge was so hot that you didn't get any sleep and I got very little. We really must try to be more classy next year and stay somewhere else! Anyway I had a fab time with you, particularly on the Friday when we both had a little too much booze and enjoyed dinner with some epic ladies, even if that Jessup really was quite rude to me and Stef revealed things to the whole restaurant that she might have regretted the next morning.

It was good to know that throughout the conference I could easily find you in your comfy courtyard chair crocheting a granny square.

Love you bloggy bestie, Mich xx

PS - I love this picture of us, it is probably my favourite picture of me in years 
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Sunday, 21 June 2015

5 ways for Dads to spend quality time with their kids


Happy Fathers Day all. I have today at the request of Mothercare handed my blog over to my lovely husband. He's only guest posted here once before in the seven years this blog has been live so I'm feeling very honoured.

1.    Find a shared interest
For the last ten years I've been a Cub leader and for many of those my son JJ has joined me to camp and then attended Beavers, Cubs and now Scouts. This has led to a shared love of outdoor scouting pursuits such as hiking, wide games and camping. Recently my daughters have joined Cubs and it makes such a difference to my motivation when I see them all excited on a Tuesday night.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Films to Inspire your kids on Netflix #StreamTeam


The other weekend JJ and I went to the cinema whilst the girls were at a cubs event with dh. The choice of film was JJ's and we saw Tomorrowland, a Disney movie about Casey, an inquisitive teen who is passionate about all things science. The film sees her on a journey to find Tomorrowland (certificate PG) and unearth it's secrets, helped by former boy-genius Frank (George Clooney) and android Athena. I didn't find it the most riveting film but I did really like the questions it raised about positively and what a difference it makes when you do not give up hope and always seek a brighter future. I tried to have this conversation with JJ and he told me in no uncertain terms that 'Dad is more fun to go to the cinema with as he just enjoys the film rather than pulling it apart'.

This did get me thinking about how many great films are out there that have messages that we hope our children will embrace, so I had a search on Netflix and asked some blogger friends what they would recommend as an inspiring watch for their kids.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Taking a moment to dream....

Amazing kids I met in the slums of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

When I got a tweet from Lizzie tagging me in this 'Time to dream - The ultimate bucket list' meme, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to join in. I had to take some time to ponder as I find the idea of creating a list of things that would take loads of money really hard. How can I write a list of what I desire when others have so little? I do realise that I've become a bit confused in this area though and it is something I've been working through with God.

Somehow in the last fifteen years in my journey from super self-absorbed Mich to compassionate Mich I've lost the balance of what it is OK to spend money on. I find that I can no longer justify a new kitchen because it is out-of-date, it would now need to be broken too. We only go away on holiday if the price is a serious bargain or it is a blogging review as it seems once something gets past about £200 I can't justify spending out on it. Gone are my days of fun and impromptu breaks away, I've turned into a bit of a bore frankly!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Feeling Confident at Night time with DryNites® Pyjama Pants

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of DryNites® for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.


Every child is unique and they all grow and develop very differently. JJ was taking steps by the time he was 10 months old and Miss E showed no interest in walking until she was nearer 18 months. now of course seven years later and you would have no idea as she is the far more agile and active. It all seems to even itself out in the end but getting there can be a challenge for some children.

There really does not seem to be any logic to how a child grows developmentally either, as like I said JJ walked at 10 months and was chatting away like he was at school at 2 years old but still he was not dry at night for quite some years. Day time potty training him all came easily and he was happy out of nappies in no time at all but cracking it at night is just that bit harder. There is no one reason for delayed bladder control at night but I believe it is inherited and until the child develops the trigger to wake them when their bladder is full they will continue to have accidents. Bed wetting is a perfectly normal part of growing up and affects almost 600,000 children in the UK every year, so no child needs to feel alone and it is always helpful if the parent shares with their child their own experiences.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Dear So and So - The Race for Life Edition


Dear girls,

Thanks so much for being my companions at the Race for Life on Sunday. It was such a privilege to do this with you and whilst we only walked it, I think it was more important that we raised money, championed a cause and took part together than our time of 1 hour and 1 minute.

Love you both, mummy xx


PS - Yes when you are teenagers you can do it on your own and run the race and half my time *sigh*
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Dear friends,

Thank you to so many of you for sponsoring us, we raised just over £200 and I think that is marvellous.

You all rock, Mich
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To Brioche Pasquier,

You make some seriously great little brioches that my kids adore for a breakfast treat or in their lunchbox and I think your new chocolate chip seeded brioche is tasty too, sadly only one of my children agreed with me but then the other two hate seeds so it was too be expected. The girls and I loved being part of your Race for Life team and I was proud to wear the t-shirt (which thankfully stretched to my size!) 


It is fab how you Champion the Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life 2015 series. Last year you raised £20,000 for Cancer Research UK through your Raise Some Dough promotion and this year you offered 400 free entries for Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life series and hosted the fabulous Share a moment giveaway. You are doing a great job! 

Thanks also for the £50 you donated to our fund raising efforts, I know it will be put to good use..

Thanks a lot, the Pannell family
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Thank you God,

The weather you provided for our walk (I can't really call it a race when we were not being competitive at all) was fabulous. No rain, warm but not too hot.

Thanks for always looking after us, Mich x
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Dear body,


You found that a real struggle didn't you? It's to be expected I suppose, you are carrying about 7 or 8 stone in excess weight. It is no wonder really that your knees hurt and you feel completely exhausted after the 12 km that you walked Sunday morning.

I'm going to try real hard to treat you better as things can't go on like this, I understand that.

Thanks, your owner, Mich x
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Cancer,

We all hate you and one day I pray we see an end to you. You have taken hold of too many people that we love and I pray they have gone to a better place to be reunited with you. RIP Nanny Mary and Granddad Jack, loved you both so much.

Michelle
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Uncle Derek,

It was so pertinent to have your funeral just a few days before we took part in the Race for Life and I felt privileged to read on behalf of your children.

Thank the Lord you are in pain no longer.

Michelle


NOW OVER TO YOU

If you fancy linking up a letter/ notes post then please do and I'll come comment and share and why don't you take a moment to comment on a couple of other posts in the linky please.

We tweet with the hashtag #DearSoandSo and feel free to use the badge below so people can find the linky.

Thanks a lot, have a fantastic week, Mich x

Dear So and So at Mummy from the Heart
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Monday, 15 June 2015

Pampers & NCT Study into Modern Parenting Roles

The day I fell in love with my firstborn JJ

I remember that very first exciting day when I knew I was on the way to becoming a parent. I was in my office at work and for the whole day tiredness was washing over me. I couldn't understand it, I'd had enough sleep, I didn't feel ill, I was just absolutely shattered and as I lay my head on the desk for a small rest it suddenly dawned on me and I jumped up, grabbed my bag and announced to my staff I'd be back soon. Twenty minutes later I was in the works toilet peeing on a stick and quietly shouting 'yes' whilst I fist pumped the air! I then had to walk out as normal and survive the rest of the day until I could tell my husband.

It's funny though as I can't recall how I told him. It amazes me that some memories are as clear as the day they happened and others just get lost. I've definitely found this a lot with early parenthood. It is so exhilarating to be a parent and you become absolutely absorbed in your child and new family unit but some things get lost in the blur of family life. If you asked me how old JJ was when he cut his first tooth I couldn't tell you without looking back at his baby memento book. I sure am glad I was particular about filling this out and keeping photos. Of course with the girls it is different and their whole life is documented in this blog and what a great treasury it is.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Family visit to Marwell Zoo, Hamphire #CountryKids


On the way to our Devon break we stopped in Winchester and spent the day at Marwell Zoo. Well actually we arrived about 1pm and stayed there until it closed at 6pm, so we spent a fun five hours looking round.

I'd been here before with my parents years ago when JJ was a toddler but I found it had changed quite a bit in the last ten years. Marwell is not the biggest zoo but I was very surprised when I was told on entry that we would not be given a map/leaflet to help us get about but luckily there were some large maps in the zoo so we could plan our route. Truth be told, as it is not that big you can get round it all very easily especially when you have older children like us.

If we had wanted a guide, we had to buy one which was £3 and then as we came through the gates there was a table with spotter booklets that we could buy for £1 each. This is where you can stamp (or emboss more accurately) your book in six places around the zoo, but I've never had to pay for one of these before, they have always been part of the entry price. I don't like lots of extras when we go for a day out, I prefer one price with no surprises.

When we arrived the car park was really full and we worried how busy the zoo would be and if we might actually find it uncomfortable with the amount of cars there but I have no idea where all the people were hidden, it never felt too busy, not like London Zoo. At every enclosure we could get to the glass/ fence easily enough if we waited just a few moments and as soon as we arrived we were able to secure a picnic table to enjoy our lunch.

After our lunch the kids spotted a nice sit-on model train and they asked us for a go. Upon investigating we found this was another thing you had to pay separately for and the cost for the 5 of us would have been £12.50, a bit too steep in my opinion for a few minute journey. Thankfully there was a land train/ tractor ride which we could ride for free and you can go on as many times as you like (people permitting of course). We found this quieter as the day went on and better to board at the Rhinos than anywhere else as at other stops often no-one got off and thus there was not any room. The main first stop by the entrance/ gift shop was always the busiest place.


Probably the thing I liked best about Marwell was how well we could see the animals. I don't know if we just had a lucky day or because it is not too big the animals can be seen but whatever it was we managed to spot everything we wanted to - giraffes, tigers, meerkats, lions, rhino, hippos, otters, owls, penguins and so many more.

The girls really enjoyed the play parks, of which there are two. One has bucket swing, climbing frames, massive slides and smaller equipment and the other has a sandpit, monkey bars and other fun equipment. JJ at age 11 years and 5ft tall felt that both parks were a bit young for him. In fact he wasn't too impressed with the whole zoo as the parts he normally likes are the interactive and learning ones and there was very little interactive learning opportunities for the kids and no fun activities for them to get involved with. At other zoos the kids have been able to race against he clock, test their strength, record their roar etc.

There are some opportunities to watch the animals being fed but we didn't pay too much attention to these and just managed to stumble upon the giraffes and the otters being fed which the girls found very interesting. There is a programme of planned talks and feeds though and you can check those out here. 

About half way round there is a small gift shop selling sweets and a few souvenirs and then at the end there is a massive shop which my kids all fell in love with and came away with a stuffed toy each. There were some amazing pieces of art there but the £10,000 price tag is beyond my means.

The price for our family of 5 to gain entry to Marwell Zoo is £74.00 and comparable to other similar zoo venues. There were plenty of catering outlets on site and the food in the Cafe Graze looked really good quality and very tempting. Of course the prices are not cheap but they never are at attractions like this, w just enjoyed some lollies and a cuppa, which were fairly priced

Personally I think Marwell Zoo will suit those with younger children best as it will feel enormous to them. They will really enjoy the land train and the parks are aimed at them too..

I'm linking this post up with Fiona at Coombe Mill for #CountryKids.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 

Disclosure: I was sent complimentary tickets for entrance to Marwell Zoo but I could not use them last year and thus our recent visit. I was not instructed what to write and I remain honest.
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Thursday, 11 June 2015

5 Reasons to Take a Family Holiday at Mazzard Farm Holiday Cottages

Taken in Mazzard Farm's very own woodland

I could so easily have titled this post 10 reasons, 20 reasons or even 50 reasons why you must book your holiday at Mazzard Farm Holiday Cottages but lets be realistic, you probably wouldn't read that many. So I'll keep it concise and tell you five reason why I believe every family will love to stay at Mazzard Farm Holiday Cottages in Ottery St Mary, East Devon.

1.  Responsive and Personal Service -

Prior to arrival my communications with Ruud, the owner of Mazzard Farm were via email and I always found him to be very friendly, professional and responsive. As soon as we had confirmed our break he emailed me a 31 page what to do in the local area guide, it was excellent and included ideas of activities for rainy days and things to do on a limited budget as well. I truly found that every email delivered a response that was above what I would expect, I asked about early arrival and leaving my luggage whilst we went off and explored and not jut a yes to my query but then suggestions of places to go to. It is clear that Ruud and his wife Jac genuinely love what they do and want to make sure that every customer is happy.

When we arrived both Ruud and Jac greeted and us and whilst Ruud showed us around and chatted with our kids, Jac bought us the ingredients so we could enjoy a delicious homemade cream tea. It was so appreciated after a long drive.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Dear So and So - Random Musings June 2015

Dear Readers,

Good morning, I hope you are well and looking forward to a good week ahead. I'm sorry I'm late with this today, I have no excuse, I just totally forgot until I was on my way back from the school run!

Whoops, imperfect Mich!
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Dear Home,

I love you. You make me very happy and I must get out and enjoy your grounds more. Last week as I lay under this tree for 3/4 of an hour and prayed, it was the happiest and most serene I have been in a long time. I need to make more time for being outside and being with God.

Mich x

Sunday, 7 June 2015

10 Good habits to ensure you have a healthy blog


Blog maintenance, I don’t think anyone really enjoys it but it is necessary if you want your blog to retain its authority and be in good standing with the likes of Google, Yahoo and other search engines.
Of course the other plus point is that readers want to keep coming back to a blog that is easy to read and navigate as well.

If you regularly indulge in these ten good habits then you should keep a healthy blog and not fall foul of any penalties that Google decide to dish out!

1.  Check for broken links on your blog regularly.
Basically linking to other web pages in your blog posts is a great idea but you’ll soon find that other blogs close or suppliers change their product links and you are left with a load of links on your blog that are pointing no-where useful and that is a big no-no in terms of your site retaining its credibility. You can easily go to Broken Link Checker and do this for free, I try to do it every couple of months now as I never knew about it for the first five years of blogging and when I went to check there were thousands of links that I needed to remove or fix (one by one) and yes it was a lengthy process.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

My mama used to say...

I'm trying to raise three responsible savers and spenders!

Well actually it was probably my Dad that used to say 'Michelle, don't go getting yourself in debt, only buy what you can afford. There is no use living a life that is beyond your means' and you know what? It sure took me a long time to learn that.

Now at the ripe old age of 41 I know he is right and that living in constant debt and therefore worry is no fun at all. Of course we all have debts - mortgages, loans and credit cards but the challenge is to keep them in check and to make sure they do not spiral out of control. I'm in the lucky of position of living in a borrowed house right now, which means we do not have a mortgage and on the one hand this is fabulous and eases my mind but on the other I then have the worry that we are not currently investing in our future. Luckily I have my eyes firmly fixed on God and that means I can let Him be concerned about the years to come and I just need to focus on being obedient and loving right now.

Review and Giveaway - Butterfly Twists - Wellies, Ballerinas and Sandals


Just look at these Butterfly Twist wellies, how super cute do they look on my (big-footed) little lady? Can you believe that my 7 year old daughter has size 4 feet? I'm seriously hoping the growth slows soon or she is going to be a giant!

You might not have heard of Butterfly Twists before, I hadn't before they approached me but what great wellies and shoes that are foldable! Yep you read that right, they can fold right up and go in your handbag with minimal fuss and taking up hardly any space. They are designed for women with busy lives but have memory foam insoles so you are super comfortable and I'm sure when you see some of the designs below, you'll agree they are super stylish too. They really are made to be worn #AnytimeAnywhere.

Friday, 5 June 2015

The importance of a good car seat


My girls have got to that size where they are asking me if they have to keep using their booster car seats. They are only a month off of 8 years old but both are above the 135cm threshold and of course my preference is to keep them using seats, that is the safest thing for them and safety has to come before convenience or their street cred, surely?

Halfords certainly think so and as part of national Child Safety Week (1-7th June 2015) they are happy to check the fit of any car seat (bought from anywhere) and I love this sort of thing; when a big brand realises that safety is more important than sales and profit and they go out of their way to do the right thing.

I've been buying car seats for in excess of 12 years now and we have had quite a few different ones and I'll confess that my first one was bought on design and style rather than fit. It really was a revelation to me to know that not all car seats fit all cars and some offer much better safer than others, so please do make sure that you get yours checked out. I just happened to be lucky and the seat was a good fit for my then Ford Fiesta but of course it got lugged between my car, my husbands and my parents and it is all too easy for the fit to then be wrong.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Keep Calm and Blog On - BritMums Live is Almost Here


I'm getting pretty long in the tooth now, I've definitely moved into the Grandmother realm of parent blogging and established myself as an old hat. Bloggers that I still think of as new have now been established for four years or more and when I look back I realise my first post went live in 2008 and that is seven years ago. In terms of blogging that is an awful long time now.

Early 2010 was when I really broke into the parent blogging community and started to be brave and share content, joining in with linkies like The Gallery and Dear So and So, commenting elsewhere and even joining twitter. I made some great friends, ones which are now real life buddies, I made lots of fabulous acquaintances that I can chit chat with and I also met a few nasties along the way, but not many, honestly the people I would rather never meet again can be counted on one hand. The parent blogging sphere is a great one; supportive and fun in the main.

Mum, my coat was really popular at school today!

This was the statement that greeted me as Miss E ran in the door from school a couple of weeks ago. Well it was certainly different to my normal 'Hi, Mum'. Who even knew a coat could be popular?

I sort of understand it though as the new coat Miss E was wearing is really adorable and if I was seven years old I'm sure I would want one too. She was kindly sent a 3 in 1 coat from Trespass to review and I can tell you straight off it is scoring really highly. Just look how cute it is -

Monday, 1 June 2015

Dear So and So - Delightful Devon


Oh Devon,

We only saw such a small part of you on our whirlwind three night trip over the weekend but how I love you. So lush, so green, just like a massive patchwork quilt spread before us as we drove along. I adored being up in the hills and taking the roads down to Sidmouth or Exmouth. You literally took my breath away as we cruised over the summit and saw the views across the fields and down to the sea. Simply stunning, I'm sure we will be back.

Gratefully, The Pannell family
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