Monday, 30 January 2017

Planning a trip to Edinburgh Zoo & the Highland Wildlife Park

Image Credit: BBC

For a long time now I've been an advocate of giving experiences as presents rather than physical things. I tend to have friends and family around me who don't need more stuff, that doesn't mean that we are all super rich and have every gadget imaginable, it just means that we are content with what we have and don't need any more ornaments, clothes, photo frames, perfume, chocolate etc

Many years for Christmas I give my Mum a trip to London with me around Mothers day and we go shopping, sightseeing, to the theatre or cinema and enjoy some meals out. This Christmas gone was no different and we are both very much looking forward to our March stay at the Mercure hotel, Kensington and spending that alone time together. There really is a different dynamic when we don't have the kids shouting Mum or Nan constantly.

JJ was the first of my children to receive a night away as his Christmas gift, it was two or three years ago and I asked what he wanted for Christmas and he said to go to London with his Dad and to stay up there. So I booked a Premier Inn at a bargain price as it was for a January and the two of them had an amazing boys weekend visiting museums, walking the South Bank, going to the cinema and eating JJ's favourite food like gourmet burgers and pancakes.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Slimming World Butternut Squash Lasagne - Syn Free



This delicious lasagne is easy to make and will provide a filling meal. It is also syn free when you count a portion as half of your HEX A choice and you still have 20g of low-fat cheese to use that day in any way you fancy!.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Serves: 4 people

Ingredients
  • 500g Lean (under 5% fat) minced beef or Quorn
  • 1 Pack Butternut Squash lasagne sheets (Sainsburys)
  • 1 500g carton Passata
  • 1 Onion
  • 250g Fat-free Natural Yoghurt
  • 250g Low-fat Cottage Cheese
  • 100g Spinach (fresh or frozen)
  • 80g Low-fat Cheddar Cheese
  • 4 tbsp Tomato Puree
  • 2 Cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp Parsley
  • 1 tbsp Mixed Herbs or Basil
  • 1 Egg
  • As needed - Low-cal Spray oil
  • To suit your taste - Salt and Pepper

Friday, 27 January 2017

8 Fab Ideas for Healthy & Delicious Packed School Lunches #LunchBoxHeroes


My children have always had a mix of school dinners and packed lunches and whilst the lazy part of me would love them to have school dinners every day the sensible part knows that a packed lunch is often a much better idea in terms of both nutrition and cost savings.

It is easy to get boring though and give the same foods every day to your kids so every once in a while we all need a shake up and a reminder that you can make lunches fun without it being a right hassle.

Let me be upfront now though before you read on, I don't do all these amazing bento box style lunches for the kids (well not very often anyway) as I just don't have that kind of time or inclination and nor do I make my own yogurt to ensure the kids don't get to much sugar. I am all about an easy packed lunch that will fill the kids and offer them variety whilst being nutritious and meeting the government guidelines for a healthy packed school lunch.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Reasons to be Cheerful - Home, London and Singing #R2BC


Hello friends, how are you?

1. Love where you Live
What is it like where you are? It has been super cold, foggy and plain nasty many of the days this week in East Sussex but there have been glimpses of bright blue skies too and some enjoyable times to get outdoors and enjoy the amazing landscape here. So that is my first reason, that I get to live in the most amazing place, just look at that picture above, pretty cool - right?

2. Trip to London
Last weekend, my husband and I got to have a one night, two day stay up in London whilst our lovely friend Annie stayed with our kids. We saw Wicked the musical, had fabulous Chinese food, walked the Thames, looks round the Tate Britain museum and I loved it. It was so good to spend time just the two of us.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Renewing your wedding vows, would you?


I've often wondered why people renew their wedding vows after a number of years being married. I just asked my husband what he thinks about it and he gave me a nervous look and said he thought it was a bit weird. I wouldn't say that's my thoughts but I think it does need thinking through before you rush into it. 

We've now been married for fourteen years but have been together for twenty-two. I Suppose because we waited quite some time, we were able to have the wedding we wanted rather than one we felt we ought to have. Our actual marriage ceremony was just perfect and if I'm honest I can't imagine recreating that as it was so incredible and surely a once in a lifetime event?

We were new Christians and truly felt the the power of the words that our vicar said about us now being in an eternal relationship together with each other and with Jesus supporting us. We are like a three legged stool and our marriage won't work if the third leg (Jesus) isn't part of it. That ceremony and the car journey afterwards to the venue were for us probably the best parts of the day, the times when it just felt like the two of us I suppose.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Review: Wicked, the Musical at the Apollo Victoria

Images courtesy of the Wicked Musical website

I'll start off by being totally upfront with you - Wicked is an amazing West End show and we absolutely loved it. In fact last week was the second time I've seen it. A show doesn't run in a theatre that seats 2,300 people for over ten years if it isn't good, does it?

I found the Wicked story line so very clever, it isn't a prequel, nor a sequel to the Wizard of Oz, it runs alongside it and some of it does happen before the classic story that we all know but I love the way the two stories intertwine together, it is very, very clever. The story keeps you hooked from the moment it starts right through to the end.  I easily could have watched for another hour.  Needless to say the show ended with a standing ovation from the crowd.  The performances were absolutley sublime.

I really don't want to tell you too much about the story line though as that would take away some of the fabulous surprise elements. Although having said that, I saw it in 2011 with my mum and then this time with my husband and I didn't recall the story line at all, how bizarre is that? I know I loved it first time round though as I have the evidence here on my blog.

So many themes are explored as part of this theatre show- friendship, falling in love, being disappointed, being different and learning to accept yourself, not being one of the popular kids and standing up for what you believe is right to name just a few. Probably my favourite angle to the show is that things are not always what they seem, so you mustn't judge a book by its cover because bad isn't always bad (or wicked in this case).

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Less is More



I've just got back from a lovely overnight trip up to London with my husband. We went up to see Wicked the musical and enjoy a meal in China Town, which was his Christmas gift from me. I'm very into giving people experiences for their presents rather than something physical that they don't actually want or need. Of course the added bonus is that I get to enjoy this gift too. Clever, right?

Whilst we were away together I was reminded that less really is more in so many ways. We only had one night away due to our children and finances but because we had that limited time we made the most of the time we did have and really enjoyed it. Also because we go away on our own so infrequently nowadays, again is it that same thing, that we relish the time. We have far less time together and certainly less breaks away but I think we treasure and embrace them more now than we ever did in our twenties.

On arrival in London we didn't want to have to rush to our hotel to leave bags so we decided to pack light and managed with just my handbag and a small rucksack that my hubby carried. This was comfortable for our two mile walk from China Town to Vauxhall, where we had booked a Travelodge for a good price of just £59 for the room. Thus providing another example that less is more as it was at least £40 cheaper than anywhere else and that difference paid for our Chinese meal and very good it was too.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Valentines Gift Guide: Update your Man!

Firstly, let it be known that I absolutely adore my husband. We have been together 22 years and I think he is more handsome now that when I met him. What is it with men growing into themselves and looking better with a bit of life under their belt and a touch of salt and pepper hair?

However, he has never really been into fashion. His number one deciding factor with clothes is if it feels nice. There are certain fabrics he will and won't wear and the same goes for colours. Now we are both approaching our mid-forties (ekk, how did that happen?) I think it is time I gave him a bit of an update and overhauled his wardrobe. I can't imagine this will ever happen in real life so here is my fantasy Valentines gift list for him and I hope it might give you a few ideas for the man in your life.

Aftershave - Hugo Boss No 6 - Around £40 for 100ml
I absolutely love my man to smell good and I find smells can take me back to times gone by. When we were young he used to wear Armani and Farenheit and the smell of both of those makes me feel 25 again but it is time to update him and after some research I think I'll go for a classy Hugo Boss fragrance, No 6 is said to be perfect for a romantic night, so thats the one!



Thursday, 19 January 2017

Simple Reasons to be Cheerful #R2BC


I sat down Tuesday night (getting ahead) and wondered what on earth I'd share as my reasons to be cheerful this week. What are the things that have made my heart sing this week? Where have I found my joy? So I grabbed out my gratitude journal and had a look at the kind of things I've been recording in there and they were all super simple. So here are a few -

1. I'm reading Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst and it is amazing. If you've ever suffered with feeling of rejection, loneliness and a sense of not fitting in then this is for you. Have a read and know that you are loved and accepted by the one who matters.

2.  I'm also reading chick lit. I love feel-good, happily ever after kind of books. You know the sort, they are written by Jane Green, Sophie Kinsella, Marian Keyes, Phillippa Ashley, Jenny Colgan, Cathy Kelly, Debbie Johnson and many, many more fabulous story-tellers. My current read is Mince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas Market by Heidi Swain and I'm about six chapters in and loving it. I just adore the fact that I can pick these kind of books up for 99p on my Kobo.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Guest Post: How does being a Christian affect my Parenting?


Hey friends, I'm pleased to introduce you to a guest blogger today. Kate, from South Wales blogs over at The Hippy Christian Mum and she is a relatively new blogger. We are both joining in with a blog swap called 'Join in January' over on the Christian Bloggers UK Facebook page and I'm pleased to host her post today. I posed the question to Kate of how becoming a Christian has impacted her parenting.

My post will be live on Happy is her Home later in the month (when I've finished writing it! lol).

Saturday, 14 January 2017

6 Great Slimming World Blogs to Encourage You

Some of this weeks yummy meals

Hey friends, it is week 2 on my Slimming World Journey and it has been a bit of an odd week. My usual weigh in day is Saturday and I should have been weighing today but I'm volunteering at the night shelter and then doing a first aid course so I couldn't go. This meant I had to weigh at the other class which is a Tuesday evening, rather than my Saturday first thing and I was a tad sad to see the scales said I'd put on a pound.

I'm not sure what made it say that but I had been being good and my perseverance will pay off, it can't not! So I am putting ti down to an evening as adverse to a morning weigh-in and that you can't really accurately judge anything after just 3 days. I have to weight in again this coming Tuesday as we are away next weekend so that will be a truer reading.

I'll be honest with you, I haven't found it massively easy to stay on track. Thee is just so much I enjoy and want to eat but I know I have made such progress, so it is good and I'll keep at it.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Reasons to be Cheerful - Volunteering, Panto and Looking Ahead


Happy Thursday friends, I hope you are well today. I’m good, just having a busy week but some of the things that make up that busyness add into my reasons to be cheerful this week –

Volunteering 
This week I have worked a couple of shifts in reception/ group bookings at the conference centre where I live as some staff are away at a conference and I’ve been reminded just how much I enjoy working there. I hope I can help out more often.

I’ve also taken a team to the food bank warehouse last Sunday and we had a super productive couple of hours sorting stock and getting things ship-shape. Then today, perhaps as you are reading this I’m at school coaching the little boy I see each week and tomorrow it is food bank again but this time meeting our customers and giving out the food and a cuppa. Saturday I’m off to the Snowflake night shelter to help cook/ serve breakfast and pack up the temporary shelter for the day. I love the variety of roles that I get involved with and I’m really grateful for the opportunity to be able to help so many people.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Easy Guide to Choosing your Overseas Family Summer Holiday


When Winter really hits and the gloomy weather arrives there is always one thing I want to do and that is book a holiday to look forward to in the Summer months. Up until last year that had meant a UK based holiday as we felt (at that time) it was the easier and more affordable option with younger children. Having now holidayed in Spain last year I think perhaps we had our blinkers on and should have been considering holidaying abroad with the kids from a much earlier age, as it truly was the best holiday ever.

Of course this means that we can't go back to UK based holidays because as much as I love our coastline and think we have some magnificent places to visit you just can't guarantee the weather and seeing the joy on the kids faces from spending every day in the pool last year is too much for me to ignore.

So this year we are heading off to Playa Montroig Resort on the Miami Platja, Costa Dorada, Spain with Eurocamp and we can't wait. I've heard so much about Eurocamp over the years and I hadn't investigated them as I didn't think they'd be for me as I don't do camping but wow, they have so much more than camping available. We are heading off to stay in a rather luxurious mobile home with a decked terrace for al fresco eating and drinking on those balmy evenings. I just can't wait and I'll be sharing more about our holiday choice in the months running up to our holiday in May but for today this post is about helping you select your ideal summer holiday too.

Monday, 9 January 2017

What I learnt on my First Week on Slimming World


Last Saturday morning I joint Slimming World, it isn't the first time but I am determined it will be the last as I am going to lose weight this time (even if it takes me a decade) and keep on going to ensure I stay slimmer and healthy.

I'm not kidding myself that this will be easy but I genuinely believe that Slimming World is the best plan to follow. Once you have learnt what to do the plan is simple, no food is banned and you can literally stuff your face if that is what makes you happy - but of course it has to be the right foods. The ones that give life, rather than the fatty, sugary rubbish that steal it.

If you want to know all about the Slimming World way, then check out their website as they'll explain it better than I ever can and no this post is not sponsored in any way, I am paying for my classes and there independently.

I thought it would be helpful for anyone considering this journey or just starting it like me to see what I ave learnt in my first week on the Slimming World plan.

1.  You need to make time to get to know the plan
It is different nowadays, I recall going to a class back in the 1990's and it was all about red and green days and I hated the idea that I couldn't have carbs and protein together. Forget anything you ever heard and investigate it yourself.

Once you join, your leader will give you an introduction to the plan and you'll have plenty of material to take home to read and digest. Make sure you do this the same day - read it, highlight it, keep referring to it and in the end live it. I friends now that are four or five years post weight loss via the Slimming World way and it is all in their head as a healthy guidance plan for life now and that is why they are staying slim and healthy.

Friday, 6 January 2017

A Beautiful Day for a Dog Walk on the Beach


One of the biggest benefits of having moved to East Sussex is being close to the beach. It is my go to happy place whatever the weather but especially when the sun is shining.

Earlier in the month my Dad joined my girls and I to take the dog for a walk down on Bexhill seafront and then have a bacon sandwich and cuppa at Kerry's cafe (you guessed it, it was pre-slimming world!). We had a wonderful couple of hours together before he had to head off on the long drive back home.

Both girls were wearing their new ECCO boots with built-in GORE-TEX technology to keep their feet dry and warm in these wet and wintry months. This meant when they walked on the stones, run towards the waters edge or climbed and ran I didn't bat an eyelid about how their footwear would hold up as I know I can trust any pair of shoes or boots that GORE-TEX have approved to work with. Their checks are super intensive and they only work with the best and most trusted shoe-makers.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Happy 2017 - Reasons to be Cheerful #R2BC


Happy New Year friends, how are you? Has 2017 started with a boom or just a little fizz? All is well here and here are just a few of the things making me super cheerful and grateful this week -

1.  Catch up time
My kids went back to school on Tuesday and Wednesday so I am now sat here alone and enjoying being able to catch up on some blog work, there is tons to do and it could easily overwhelm me if I let it, but I won't. Balance and perspective are the order of the day for blogging nowadays.

2.  My house is in order
I really don't function well in a house full of mess and with things out of place. So slowly whilst the kids were still off I started to gut some of the rooms and then yesterday I did the last of it whilst they were at school and now I feel as if I have cleanliness and order back in my house once again, hurrah!

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Win a Family Ticket for Babe - The Sheep-Pig Live on Tour

**Closed**  Sadly Karl B did not contact me to claim the prize. So I have drawn again and massive congratulations to Jacqueline J who won this giveaway. I've sent you an email, please respond within 14 days to claim the prize as per the T&C's. Thanks, Mich 


I don't know about you but I really love live theatre: I would go up to the West End each month if I could but as I like nice seats it has come to a point where we can barely afford it nowadays and that makes me sad.

I realise I've been missing a trick though as many of the best shows are not just limited to London West End they can be in more provincial theatres or even starting in London and then touring the country. I need to widen my horizons and I realised this when my husband gave me ticket for Dirty Dancing for Christmas. Not Dirty Dancing in the West End that might have cost us £120 for the two of us but Dirty Dancing at Eastbourne that costs just £40 for the two of us - result! I can't wait to go.

Babe, The Sheep-Pig
I'll tell you what else I can't wait to see at the theatre in Eastbourne and that is Babe, The Sheep-Pig, it looks so very clever. This new production is adapted from Dick King-Smith’s much-loved children’s novel which inspired the Oscar-winning 1995 film, and will feature stunning puppetry from the teams behind War Horse and Cirque de Soleil, bringing the characters of Hogget’s Farm to life on stage.

There is also an original score and an utterly charming ‘baa-ber sheep’ quartet. Babe, the Sheep-Pig tells the story of the lovable Babe in a heart-warming tale of friendship, adventure and bravery.