Thursday, 16 August 2018

Happy Birthday to Me #R2BC

It was my birthday on Wednesday and I turned 45, I can't believe how quickly those years are adding on to my age, but I have to be honest, I'm not worried.

My family and I headed up to London on Wednesday morning and where there for 36 hours, we had a thoroughly lovely time, although as always, I am pleased to be home, as it is far too busy, muggy and smoggy in London (now I sound my age)! lol.

Here's a few photos to show you what we got up to -

Super yummy burger lunch at Byron Burgers in Covent Garden. Using my Tastecard we got 50% off and to be frank, that's the only way we could afford it!

We spent some time in Covent Garden browsing, and watching the street artists.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

A Day in the Life of Archie, the Golden Lab

I've got something a little different for you today. I'm pleased to welcome Archie to take the reins for this post. Archie is my parents' beloved golden Labrador, who is eight and best friends with my Miss M.


I can't believe it, we are really here. Hey, hey it's holiday! I love coming away on holiday with Mum and Dad, but the very best holidays are when their grand-kids come as well, as that means I get to play with JJ, Miss M and Miss E.

JJ used to be my best friend, but he only wants to play with me every now and then nowadays, he seems more interested in that black box that he's always tapping away at. Mum calls it his laptop, I call it a pest!

Miss E and Miss M are twins and they are both fun, but I have to be honest, Miss M is my favourite. She is the one who gets up early to walk me with Dad each day and she is the one who always plays ball and tug of war with me. 

It can't be long now as the sun is up and I can hear Dad moving about in his bedroom, so Miss M will knock on the door soon and it will be time for us to go walking and running in the forest. It's very nice here in the New Forest where we are staying, but boy does it get hot in the caravan, it's lucky that Dad won't leave me here alone, so I am getting loads of great day trips out. I wonder where we will go today?

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Back to School with STABILO

As a child we went on holiday every year in August and it would always be around my birthday. Some kids might have been upset at this, as it meant I never had parties but I loved being away on my birthday, as it resulted in a beach day, ice cream, the penny arcade and shopping.

I've loved to shop since quite a young age and when I was a kid the summer sales always happened around my birthday, so it was a joy to take my birthday money and buy myself a few treats. One of the things I always bought each summer was new stationary to take with me back to school in September.

It's always been a bit of a ritual for me to choose all the new things I needed for school - bag, pencil case, rubber, calculator, maths set, sharpener, pens, pencils and the like. I truly loved it and its a love I seemed to have passed on to my girls as well.

When I told them that STABILO wanted to help them get ready for going back to school, they were both very excited. The reason being, that they both received a pack of STABILO Pen 68 felt-tip colouring pens for Christmas three years ago and some of them are still working. When else, have you ever heard of well-used pens lasting for that amount of time?

STABILO is a name we know and trust as creators of cult writing instruments for more than 160 years and the company is still family owned which always says a lot about a company, so we were excited to see what they sent though to us to try out.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Knockhatch Adventure Park, Hailsham, East Sussex - Review

knockhatch header

Recently my girls were lucky enough to have a Monday inset day and we used this as the perfect opportunity to visit Knockhatch without it being too busy. I would say that Knockhatch Adventure Park is a perfect (and really reasonably priced) day out if your child is aged between about 2 - 12 years. My twins are just about to turn 11 and they’re on the cusp of being a bit big for some of the attractions.

As we were visiting with many friends with kids of varying ages it worked well as they were able to help the little ones in the Pirates Cove splash area and on things like the soft play and Quadapillar ride without feeling too big. I have to admit to being really pleasantly surprised by the whole park. We had briefly visited about five years ago and not been that impressed but this visit was enough to make us want to go back a good few times before the girls really outgrow it.

High Season, Term Time
We visited on an Orange day, which is high season but within term time, so everything was open but we had timed sessions for them all and there was at least three or four sessions (spread throughout the day) for each activity/attraction in the day so you could do most everything. I have to be honest though, we found it hard to fit everything in during the five hours we were there. We were given a leaflet with the times as we arrived so it was easy to be able to plan.

quadapillar ride

Monday, 6 August 2018

10 Simple Tips for Energy Saving and play the British Gas Smart Meter Maze Game #BritishGasSmarterLiving

None of us are immune to the rising cost of energy and its not just any one supplier who's put up their prices in recent years. It's a fact of life that we now use far more technology than in the past and as such our energy bills are rising. We don't have to just accept the cost increases and be passive though, there are of course energy saving measures that we can take to help both our pockets and the bigger environmental world picture.

mother and child
Image thanks to British Gas

Energy Smart Meters
I'm really pleased to be working with British Gas, which serves around 11 million homes and provides energy to several hundred thousand UK businesses. As well as offering gas, electricity and boiler care services to the nation’s homes for over 200 years, British Gas is committed to making a difference. They are part of a Government initiative to improve energy efficiency in Great Britain and as such are offering smart meters to all customers by 2020. You'd receive one for your gas and one for your electricity.

I suspect you've probably heard people talking about smart meters but you might not yet be aware of what they do and just how much of a benefit they will be to your home and energy spending. The installation of smart meters will improve the accuracy of your bill by communicating your usage directly to British Gas and will allow you to view your energy use in currency as you use it, thus encouraging you to turn appliances off and use less energy. It's simple and that's the beauty of it. Nothing complex, just straightforward information you can take steps from and thus save energy and ultimately money.

A Fun Game to Play
Most people know the basics of energy saving and more of us are now double or triple glazing our windows, timing our heating and insulating our roofs but there are so many small and simple ways to help you actively manage your energy consumption and British Gas have designed a fun game to play, which will help you learn as you go.

I rarely play online games and as such I am a bit useless, so when I tried the Smart Meter Maze Game I totally failed on level one but that kicked in my competitive streak and I didn't want the game to beat me so I did fairly well on levels 2 (3000 points) and 3 (4000 points) and by level 4 I was feeling a bit rubbish again (1250 points). I've played a few times now and I'm pleased to say that I can fly through the five levels. I got 10750 on the final level. Go Mich!

Saturday, 4 August 2018

5 Reasons we Loved our Stay at Shorefield - Oakdene Forest Park,

Oakdene forest park header

We were away on holiday last week and what an amazing time we had. It was the week when it was 28 or 30 degrees heat every day and I know we are supposed to be grateful for the hot weather but come on, have you ever stayed in a caravan in that kind of heat?

Luckily for us it was a fabulous caravan and that made the world of difference. We were staying in Dorset on the edge of the Hurn and Avon forest at a Shorefield holidays park called Oakdene Forest Park. My parents had stayed there when I was at Uni in the area over twenty years ago but they said it is unrecognisable from the park of those days.

Every year for the first week of the school summer holiday the kids and I go away with my parents, brother and their dog. Normally we stay in a house in Poole but we were all gutted to find out late last year that the landlord we rent from, had sold the property and thus we weren't at all sure what to do as houses for 7 people and a dog can be so expensive. As I browsed the internet in early January I came across some great deals for Shorefield parks and because of their January sale I managed to secure a really decent price for the two caravans. I paid £374.25 for each caravan plus £28.00 for the dog.

I'd booked for a Monday to Friday short break and we all agreed that we needed longer, so next time it will be a full week for us. Officially you can't access your caravan until 4pm on the day or arrival and then have to be out of it by 10am, so that only gives three full days which didn't feel long enough. I had called in advance and asked about early arrival and whilst there was no guarantees, I'd say it is worth doing this as both of our caravans were available for us at 2pm. This meant we were unpacked and in the pool by 3pm!

Friday, 3 August 2018

Outdoor Theatre - Alice in Wonderland at Kew and Wakehurst this Summer

Years back I went to an outdoor concert, it was at a big fancy house in London, but I'm not sure where. I recall being really excited and my friend and I had packed a luxury picnic and some bubbly. Despite the torrential rain that fell on us that night we had the best time, sat on our outdoor chairs with big umbrellas over our heads! The atmosphere at outdoor events - concerts, theatre, festivals and the like - is just infectious.

Since that time I've wanted to find an event that I could take my children to, so they could experience the magic of watching something phenomenal whilst feeling the sun or cool breeze on their skin. With this in mind I was so excited to hear that the Australian Shakespeare Company is presenting exciting outdoor adaptations of classical texts in botanical gardens and other beautiful locations around the world.

Specifically they have bought Alice in Wonderland to life and will perform it at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew from 21st July through to 27th August 2018 and then head down to Wakehurst in West Sussex for performances from 30th August - 2nd September 2018.

Performance Details

  • Kew - Tuesday - Sunday 10.30am and additional 2pm performance on each Friday/ Saturday
  • Wakehurst - 2.30pm performance each day and 11am on Friday, Saturday and Sunday
  • Run Time - 1 hour, 15 minutes
  • Tickets cost - Kew - Adult £22.90, Child £17.90 and group of 4 is £70.00. 
  • Tickets cost - Wakehurst - Adult £16.00, Child £12.90 and a group of 4 is £54.00.
  • The cost of your ticket for Wakehurst includes the cost of parking.
  • Kew members get a discount when they provide their membership number when booking for either venue. 
If you wish to book tickets for either venue, you can do so by clicking here

Thursday, 2 August 2018

#R2BC - The Village Country Fete

Happy Thursday friends, I hope you're well and the Summer holidays are going swimmingly for you (if they make any difference, that is!).

I've had a fab week, we have a big Christian festival going on in the grounds of our home this week and we all get involved and enjoy some worships, craft, time with friends and good biblical teaching. My girls particularly have had an absolute ball as it is their first time going to youth and they have made friends and been allowed to stay out a bit later in the evening.

Last Saturday was the annual village fete and I do love going to it. After growing up in a town and then living in various towns all my life it was a complete novelty to move here five years ago and find out what real community and village life is like.

Let me share some pictures of it with you -

Monday, 30 July 2018

How to Better Protect your Children while Online Gaming

Miss E staged this photo when we were away on holiday in April but sometimes this is reality!

Parenting in the digital age isn't necessarily an easy task and what I've found is that there is no 'one size fits all' answer for every family. My son is now almost 15 and has been gaming online since he was around 8 or 9. Back in the early days it was playing on Minecraft on a closed server, so I knew who he was chatting to but nowadays he is everywhere, literally!

Do I worry about who he is chatting to and whether he is potentially being groomed or giving away sensitive information? Not particularly, but that's not down to naivety on my part, it is more about the fact that we have an open door and open conversation policy. I do let him have his laptop in his room but I can walk in any time and ask to see whats he's up to. We also regularly talk about what is happening with people he knows online, what I've read recently or whether he's had any close calls in his online relationships.

Thankfully nowadays, most of his chatting is done via Discord with his extended friend network from school and cadets, but there are still times and games where he will be chatting to a stranger and all he knows is the information they give him, and I'm grateful he has a questioning mind that doesn't trust everything to be as it seems.

Computing is one of his strongest skills and he is my go-to tech expert for anything I need doing, so truthfully his knowledge is far superior to either mine or my husbands and yes he could run rings around us. However, I believe that because we have given him trust over the years and always been available to talk about any topic without any judgement, that he has a good level of respect for our wishes.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

On Feeling Needed...

I've had a desire to be needed from an early age. I'm not really sure why. A psychiatrist might suggest some kind of deficiency that I am trying to fill but genuinely I have no idea.

I can just recall many instances as a girl and younger woman where I would make myself available, and desire to fill a need. Standing up for people at school, taking on tasks that weren't mine, working extra hours and always ensuring I had the best knowledge, not to be the best but to be the one that people would call on when there was a need.

Love has always been in my life, I've never doubted that people loved me, so I wasn't seeking that and I really can't pinpoint a time when this desire to be needed started. What I have ascertained is that I struggle with feelings of rejection and perhaps it is my way to fighting that off. If people need me, they can't reject me? Maybe, I really don't know.

As I mature and deepen my faith in Christ I find that I'm doing more and more work on me and who I am. What makes me tick and what are the rough edges that need filing away? I love being able to delve into a good book and absorb some new wisdom, something that helps me in my lifelong journey to become more Christ-like.

Who am I? and what was I made to do? Those are the questions I am investigating at the moment. I went on a great course back in February, which introduced me to the Enneagram; it is a personality typing tool with strong Christian roots. I've discovered I am a type 8, often called the Challenger or the Protector and both those words ring very true for me. I won't stand by and see injustice, I'll challenge it and don't you dare mess with anyone I care about, or the underdog, as I'll fiercely protect them.

It's been quite a surreal couple of weeks listening to podcasts from other people who identify as a type 8 on the enneagram. I've felt such a deep level of resonance with these people and I'm keen to keep exploring and learning more, as the ennegram doesn't just type you, it also offers a path for becoming a healthier version of yourself.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

So Many Things to be Thankful For #R2BC

Reasons to be Cheerful is back to 'business as usual' this week after the very untimely death of Kate last week. I don't want to sound course but Kate would have loved to know that she has inspired so many people to think again about how they are living their lives and that she is inspiring them to be the best version of themselves, whether that means in body image or getting out there and grabbing all the opportunities that come their way.

In the main it has been an exciting and wonderful couple of weeks for my family. So much has been going on and I have loads to share for this weeks #R2BC.

1.  Girls birthday - my little (not so little) twinnies turned 11 and Miss E chose to go out with dh and I for bowling and a meal. Miss M chose to have a Saturday shopping trip with some school friends, she spent a load of money, they had Pizza Express for lunch, frappes in the morning and ice creams in the afternoon. They all had a ball!

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Starting Secondary School with Blacks #BacktoSchool

child modelling joules raincoat

If you have school aged children and I say to you 'back to school', I bet you start thinking about shopping and getting the kids kitted out with all their new uniform and essential supplies. The obvious places to shop are the supermarkets (for cheap and cheerful tops and socks) or the high street department stores for the slightly more expensive pieces that you want to last a while, but have you thought about shopping at an outdoor retailer like Blacks?

As well as the actual uniform I expect you need a waterproof or winter coat, trainers, school bag, gym bag and water bottle. Blacks have all these things and because they are a retailer of items for outdoor activities, we are talking really high quality items. They cater for both children at primary school and also bigger kids like mine that have moved into adult sizes and are heading to secondary school, or even college.

My 11 year old twin girls move up to secondary school this year and that means I have a massive task ahead getting them kitted out. Their uniform will include a blazer and therefore any coat I get needs to be a bit larger to go over it and as they have about a mile walk to the bus and back each day they will need a good waterproof to keep them looking smart and feeling comfortable.

Miss E already has a waterproof jacket, as being a size smaller than her twin she gets the hand-me-downs but Miss M was definitely in need. So we had a browse of the women’s waterproof jackets on the Blacks site and I kept pointing her to nice jackets that were perhaps plain black or navy to go with her uniform, but no I totally forgot who I was dealing with. This is my vivacious and vibrant daughter, who likes to be colourful and to express herself, so here is what she choose, a beautiful coat by Joules. How can it be that my 11 year old has a piece of Joules clothing before I do?

Remembering that Life is too Short! #R2BC

Hey friends, I seriously thought about not doing an #R2BC post this week as it just felt a bit contrite and disrespectful. I've been floored by the news that my lovely blogger friend Kate Sutton (or you may know her as Wit Wit Woo) died on Monday from a stroke. She was only 48 years old, it is too young and I just can't make sense of it. Facebook has been a very sad place this week as I see status after status of all the people who are gutted, devastated and missing Kate. Of course the ones suffering will be her lovely sons Dexter and Ben and I'm keeping them tightly in my prayers.

I'm only doing this post as Kate was so full of life. She was all about going out there and grabbing it by the balls and making the most of it. I think Kate's untimely death has really shaken me and made me aware that I have to stop living in limbo and I need to enjoy every day more and be less complacent for all the wonderful things in my life. So today this #R2BC post is about 'back to basics' gratitude.

Monday, 16 July 2018

The Juvenile Arthritis Research (JAR) Project - Did you know Children can have Arthritis too?

Richard and his daughter Trinity, who suffers from JIA

I’m so pleased today to be able to feature a guest post on my blog. I’m not sure how many years it is that I’ve known Rebecca from The Beesley Buzz blog, but it is a quite a number, and she is one of those women who never fails to inspire and have an encouraging word for everyone. Back in 2015 she discovered that her young daughter had Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis and it has been harrowing to see what Trinity must go through to be able to live a (more) normal and pain reduced life.

I was so excited to hear from Rebecca back in January this year that her husband was taking an exciting (and of course scary) step by starting the Juvenile Arthritis Research project. Richard is doing something incredible to make a difference to the lives of children who suffer from JIA and I’m delighted to have him share with you here today. Really, did you even know that children could suffer from arthritis? I certainly didn’t.

What is Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (or JIA)?
JIA is diagnosed in children and young people under the age of 16 and is a different disease to adult-onset rheumatoid arthritis, and entirely different from age-related osteoarthritis. The term ‘idiopathic’ means that, despite a number of theories, the exact cause of JIA is currently unknown.

Many people are not even aware that children can get arthritis. Yet JIA affects around 15,000 children under the age of 16 in the UK. At present, there is no cure.

JIA is an autoimmune disorder where the body starts to attack the joints, causing inflammation, pain, discomfort and reduced mobility. Left unchecked, JIA can lead to other health conditions as the immune system attacks other organs, as well as permanent disability and long-term health implications. Many children with JIA suffer from uveitis, where the immune system attacks the eyes; if not stopped this can lead to permanent vision loss and blindness. Some forms of JIA lead to systemic inflammatory damage, where other organs are damaged and, in the most severe forms, this can be fatal.

I founded Juvenile Arthritis Research (JAR) to find a cure for Juvenile Arthritis. With the support and endorsement of leading academic researchers, the JAR project works collaboratively yet independently to analyse data and information from a wide range of different scientific disciplines and research fields. By bringing together the disparate sources of information, we believe that we will be able to piece together the clues necessary to fully understand the disorder and develop a cure.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Visiting Paris with the Paris Pass - Was it Worth it?

arc di triomphe header

At the beginning of July I travelled to Paris with my Mum and brother for my Mums 70th birthday treat. We only had two full days in the city with travelling time on the two days surrounding them and having now returned home I wish we’d had three clear days for exploring, as Paris is just so vast and there is a crazy amount of things to do, especially included with your Paris Pass.

What is a Paris Pass you might be wondering? 
Well as the name suggests it is a pass that gives you access to most every attraction in Paris as well as a Paris Visite travel card for use on the metro, rail, tram and bus. I say most every attraction as there are a couple of exceptions, like the Eiffel Tower and the catacombs but it is very comprehensive and there are also a load of special shopping and restaurant discounts that you can take advantage of too. 

You can buy a Paris Pass for 2,3,4 or 6 days and there are differing prices for children (4-11 years), teens (12-17 years) and adults (age 18 plus).

The Adult price ranges from €131 for a 2 day pass to €244 for a 6 day pass
Teens - €81 - €135
Children - €44 - €75
So, as you can see the price per day gets better when you buy a longer pass but of course it depends how many days you'll be in Paris for.

Paris Pass

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Reasons to be Cheerful - Paris, Transition and the Circus

It's been another busy week for me and it doesn't look as if the next few weeks are going to be any different. There seems to be so much to fit in at the moment, which is a bit frustrating as I'd quite like to chill and take some time before the kids break up for six weeks, but c'est la vie, what will be, will be!

Viva La France
Last Thursday morning I headed off to London to meat my Mum and brother so we could catch the Eurostar over to Paris for a few days. It was incredibly hot and we had issues with seats, queues and delays on the Eurostar but in general we managed to have a great few days celebrating my Mums 70th birthday.  We packed loads in our days and I particularity loved going up the Eiffel Tower, taking a river cruise, riding the open top bus and seeing some awesome works of art at the Musee d'Orsay. Our apartment in Bercy Village was stunning too.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Bracing Your Family For An International Move

Image thanks to Pexel

They say moving is stressful. Why do they say this? Well, because it’s resoundingly, absolutely and completely true. If you have moved home before you're most likely nodding in agreement and if moving does not stress you in the least, then you would probably enjoy a very lucrative and successful career as a special forces operative, because it seems almost nothing could phase you.

Not only is moving house a monumental organisational task, but you must also emotionally calibrate yourself to your new surroundings, and attempt to stay positive throughout the whole affair. It’s uprooting the anchor of your life to move on to another place entirely, sailing the seas over uncharted territory until you can place your anchor in a sturdy place once more.

If moving within the bounds of your current understanding is somewhat difficult, then consider moving across national or international borders. Even if you have a great degree of familiarity with the new culture, moving to a new country entirely can sometimes lead to culture shock. The flow of life is different from place to place, and so sometimes it can take a little while to adapt.

For some tips to both brace your family for an international move and then execute the process effectively, consider the following:

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Reasons to be Cheerful - Family, Holidays and Friends #R2BC

Happy Thursday friends. I’m sorry I’ve been so lapse on the reasons to be cheerful front, it’s not that I’ve been miserable, I’ve just been super busy.

So much has been happening and much of it is good, I did have a couple of weeks where I felt really low and I wasn't even sure why but I seem to have worked through that and come out the other side. Praise the Lord.

I feel like a could write a number of posts as there is so much to be thankful for but I’ll go with a nice long list to keep it simple and easy to read. Here’s five weeks of gratitude for you -
  • We had an ace family holiday in the South of France over May half-term. I’d definitely go back to Eurocamp at Club Farret again.
  • My Mum and Dad came to stay at the cottage in the grounds of our home for a week and it was lovely spending time with them and we went out for lots of yummy food too.
  • The girls had an inset day and I went to a local farm attraction with them and loads of people from our community and it was a fabulous day out.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Discovering the Local Area from Eurocamp Club Farret, Vias, South of France

Beziers by Eric Valenne Geostory, thanks to Shutterstock

Back in May we flew into Beziers and took the short drive to the coastal town of Vias Plage, there we stayed with Eurocamp at Club Farret campsite. We had a wonderful time and you can read all about the parc in my review blog post and if you're an artist or crafter then check out my post about their outstanding (and free) art facilities too.

As we flew to the South of France we didn't have a car but if we were to visit again we would definitely hire one while we were there and not bother paying for hefty airport transfer charges. There is so much you can access easily and cheaply with a car but without it was much more difficult.

On Foot - Vias Plage
If you want to walk out from Camping Club Farret the nearest place to go (just 5 minutes away) is the resort of Vias Plage. This is very much a seaside town and has a 'strip' with plenty of restaurants, bars take-aways, tourist shops, convenience stores and great gelato shops. We popped into town every day to buy fresh pastries, have some dinner or to get ice creams to eat on the beach.

The beach itself is a lovely sandy one, with good clear waters and some very nice (if expensive) restaurants on the beach itself.

Children eating ice cream on the beach

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Planning our Perfect Paris Getaway

Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower by MarinaDa, thanks to Shutterstock

In July my Mum hits a big milestone age, I won't reveal as that's not my story to tell but we thought it was worth marking with something a bit special. My Dad isn't much of a traveller so he didn't fancy going abroad but Mum really likes to get away and has hardly travelled at all in her life. So lucky for me Dad offered to fund a trip for my brother and I to take our Mum away.

I knew straight away we'd go for a city break as we'll only be there three nights and I thought taking the Eurostar might be fun as neither my brother nor Mum have before and even for me it has been almost twenty years since the last time.

Arranging our Travel
I managed to get a good price on the Eurostar with the three of us travelling at decent times both ways for just £234. That's £78 each and I couldn't find a flight with better prices for daytime travel, I think the key is to book early. You seem to be able to book about six months before your date of travel and there are lots of £29 one-way deals at the moment.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

My London Musical Theatre Bucket List

musical theatre bucket list header image
Theatre Chairs Image from VDB Photos, thanks to Shutterstock

If you were to grant me a wish of doing anything I wanted to for the day, I would easily know what to ask for and it would always include a trip to the theatre in London. For years I went regularly and saw all the big shows, some I even saw a number of times. I think the Phantom of the Opera still reigns as my absolute favourite but I did see Blood Brothers around six times as I loved it so much, so that must be a close second.

Then the kids came along and things changed, we had a massive salary cut and of course evenings out then involved costly babysitters too, so I really felt the London theatre scene was passing me by and I missed quite a number of shows that I wanted to see, ones like The Sound of Music and Dirty Dancing.

Then about four years ago things started to change again and I found myself staying in London at least a couple of times a year and of course I wanted to see a good West End show whilst I was there. So in the last few years I've seen Wicked (twice), 42nd Street, Dreamgirls, Mamma Mia and Beautiful - The Carole King Story. Every one different and each with their own merits but the thing I really love about musical theatre is that you can lose yourself for a few hours in a world of bright lights and great songs.

Musical theatre is definitely my preferred genre and I'm so pleased that there are still dozens of shows that I haven't seen yet, so here is my bucket list for the next few years. You never know, if I'm really lucky maybe I'll get to book three sets of tickets for London shows each year and then I can crack this list in just over three years!

Thursday, 21 June 2018

How to Save Time in your Busy Schedule

These days, it can seem like just about everyone has a busy schedule that they have to stick to day after day. There are certainly plenty of jobs that require you to be on the ball around the clock, but saving time and creating more space in your schedule is almost always possible. It might not seem that way right now, but there are lots of little things that create extra time saving opportunities.

When you add up all these small amounts of saved time, it can create quite a lot of time saved by the end of the month. So it’s time to start looking into some of the various ways in which you can save time in your busy schedule and make your family’s busy life that little bit more laid back and relaxed than it is right now.

Stop Putting Things Off Until Later 
It’s so easy to open a bill or letter and then just throw it onto a big pile of things that you need to deal with later. But you will actually make more space in your budget in the long-term if you sort things out now and get back on track with your bills and other similar pressing matters. If you take the easy option of putting things off until later, that might seem comforting right now, but it will only come back to bite you and cause you more problems later on, which isn’t what you want.

Learn More Keyboard Shortcuts 
If you do a lot of work on your computer or you’re on a computer a lot, you should try to learn more keyboard shortcuts. These will help you get the most basic and important things done more quickly than you otherwise would. Of course, if you don’t feel like you need them, that’s up to you. But if you do try to pick up more shortcuts, you will get through so many situations much more quickly than you’re used to, and that can speed up your entire working day.

Woman saying no image thanks to Khaoniewping from Shutterstock

Turn Things Down When You Don’t Have the Time 
There is nothing wrong with being able to say no when you're simply not able to complete tasks that people ask for you. Your own workload should always take priority over whatever else is going on in the business, unless you get a request directly from the boss to do a particular paid. By turning things down, you will make your life simpler and more basic, and it works really well when it comes to adding more spare time to your schedule.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Making Savings with my 1066 Card in East Sussex

A post shared by Town City Cards (@1066card) on

Previously the TownCityCard was known for the towns it served, so it was the Hastings Card, Battle Card, Hailsham Card etc but now all the cards for all the different areas are coming under the unified name of the 1066 Card. This is a really good thing as it will alleviate any confusion and mean that you, as the customer will be able to tap in to discounts at over 360 places across East Sussex and in to Kent. 

I've had my card for a couple of years now and the hardest thing for me is remembering to use it. I often purchase my items and then afterwards realise I should have got my 1066 card out of my purse! So don't be like me, make sure you present your card with everything you purchase in local shops, restaurants, cafes, take-aways and days out venues. Even if that venue doesn't take the card at that point, ask them if they want to, as I know Chris, whose business it is, is always keen to meet new interested local businesses and to bring them on board.

I love the idea of shopping local and not just putting money in the pockets of the big chain stores and this is what the 1066 card is all about. You can purchase your own card from loads of local shops, council offices and the tourist office in Hastings but probably the easiest way to get it right now is to buy it direct from the website and it will arrive promptly in the post. Mine came within a couple of days. The cost is just £9.99 and it lasts until the end of the year.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Staying with Eurocamp at Club Farret Campsite, South of France

eurocamp club farret header

Over the May school half-term break we flew off to the South of France arriving in to Beziers, a very short drive away from the resort Vias Plage where the 5 star Club Farret Campsite is ideally located. It appears that the end of May is still considered low season as the seaside town itself wasn't very busy but this didn't present a problem as there were many shops and restaurants open and the parc itself was so well equipped.

Welcome on Arrival
Due to some great flight times we arrived at the parc at about 5pm and headed in to reception where we met Anette, who spoke excellent English and gave us a super welcome. We received a site plan and details of the activities going on during our week, then I had to leave a 20 euro deposit to make sure we returned our all-access wristbands at the end of our stay and she directed us over to the Eurocamp reception.

The parc is set on two sides of a road but don't let the word road put you off as really it is just a way for locals to access the beach and a few houses. It wasn't busy with traffic and there is a marked crossing between the two sides. The Eurocamp area is on the opposite side to the main reception and I really liked this as it was the quieter side and we were away from the town area, which I imagine could get noisy during peak season.

Our arrival time was outside of the Eurocamp Couriers regular hours so I gave them a call from their reception and they were with us within about 3 minutes; it was great service. The kids quickly helped themselves to a chess set and badminton equipment from the well stocked area that you can borrow activities from and Leanne took us over to our mobile home and explained how things work and what to do if we needed them. All in, it was a very smooth arrival and a fabulous welcome onsite at Club Farret Camping.

Esprit Eurocamp Mobile Home

Our Eurocamp Mobile Home
This year we had a 3 bedroom Esprit home, which is one of the more basic models and I tell you this as it really is good enough. We found ours to be spotlessly clean and that always impresses me as it shows that the company care. There was everything we needed for five of us to stay there for the week and we were able to cook meals in the kitchen and to relax fully.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Understanding Sun Protection Products - What Does it all Mean?

beach bundle
Summer Beach Set Image by Africa Photo, thanks to Shutterstock

After spending a week away in the South of France where we had mixed weather but still some horrid sunburn I’ve been prompted to write a post about sun protection products available here in the U.K. It’s a bit of a minefield really, you choose a well known brand name like Ambre Solaire or Nivea and you assume that all is good and you have chosen well for your family but it might not be the case! Read on for a low down on what all the different terms on your packaging mean and how to make an informed choice this summer.

UV Rays
There is so much information out there about the ultraviolet rays that come from the sun and it can get a bit confusing but I’ll just share the basics in layman’s terms. UV radiation from the sun comes in three wavelengths - UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC does not penetrate our ozone and thus we’re only concerned with the other two.

UVA (Ultraviolet A - long-wave)
Most of us are exposed to large amounts of UVA rays in our lifetimes and it has long been established as a cause of premature ageing and wrinkling but was less associated with damage to the epidermis (the outer layers of the skin) which is commonly associated with skin cancer.  However this is changing as newer research shows that UVA damages skin cells in the base layer of the epidermis as well as penetrating deeply.

UVA is the dominant tanning ray and whilst many of us love that brown glow our skin develops in the summer it is actually in response to our skins DNA being damaged and these imperfections can lead to skin cancer. UVA rays are present during daylight hours and they penetrate clouds and even glass.

UVB (Ultraviolet B - shortwave)
Are the rays that cause skin reddening and sunburn. They are just as damaging as UVA rays penetrating the outer layers of the skin and can significantly contribute to skin cancer.

Monday, 11 June 2018

London Theatre Kids Week: Tickets on Sale Tomorrow

Have you heard of the Official London Theatre Kids Week before?

No. Really? You need to know about this. If you are a parent who loves going to the theatre in London but finds it hard to afford to take all the family then this is the time of year to get excited because you can get your kids tickets for free!

What is Kids Week?
Yes, totally free. For each adult ticket you buy for one of the 40 eligible shows on offer this year, you can get a child ticket for free (for a child 16 years or under) and if like me you have more children than adults in your family then you can buy up to two additional child tickets for half price.

Kids Week is an amazing initiative from the Society of London Theatre (SOLT) which has been running since 1998 and has reached over 1.2 million families, it is such a great way to make the best London shows available to more families and to open children up to an amazing new cultural experience. Last year we went along to see a show called 13 The Musical which wasn't one I'd heard of before but the kids really enjoyed it and the tickets were super cheap. We had a fab time in London as a family.

Kids Week started as one week but is now so popular that it now runs from 1 - 31 August. Tickets are available subject to availability (especially at weekends)

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Why Mental Well-being Should Be On Your Family Health Agenda

Image thanks to Pixabay

When you think about healthy lifestyles, what springs to mind? Most of us tend to think about being active and eating well. Although it’s incredibly beneficial to move more and stick to a healthy diet, don’t underestimate the importance of mental health. For many of us, being healthy is all about having a trim, functional body, but it’s also essential to keep your mind in check. As mental health dominates discussions in the media, is it time to add it to your family health agenda? We all want to be happy, confident, and content and here are some tips to promote mental well-being in your household -

1.  Talk openly 

We live in an age where we’re more connected than ever, but we’re also lonelier. This bizarre juxtaposition can take its toll on both adults and children. Social media and 24-hour access to the Internet can make you feel like you’ve got friends, but many of us go for days, even months without having face to face conversations with people we claim to love and cherish. If your routine consists of the kids coming in from school and firing up the laptop or spending hours on their phone, now is the time to try and introduce periods of time when you can put your phones down and talk. Talk about your day, share funny stories, and chat about how you feel if you’ve had a bad day or you’re feeling a bit stressed. Set a good example for your children. If you bottle everything up, or you devote too much time to chatting online, there’s every chance that your children will follow suit.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

A Perfect French Holiday for Crafters and Artists

girl making a mosaic

If like me, you're an amateur crafter who enjoys a bit of me-time with paints or pottery then I’ve discovered the perfect break for you. Nestled in the beautiful French countryside by the picturesque beaches of Vias Plage is Camping Club Farret that we recently stayed at with Eurocamp.

We took this family break with the intention of enjoying all the regular fun of a Eurocamp parc - amazing pools, kids clubs, fun evening entertainment, play parks and a beautiful holiday parc to rest at. I had no idea when we booked that there would be the most amazing opportunities to get creative!

The Atelier Creatif run by a lovely German woman called Sabine is fantastic. For six days a week (it’s closed on Sundays) who can go along from 9-11am and 3-5pm and get involved with whatever takes your fancy.

girls learning to tie dye silk
This is Sabine with my daughters, teaching them to tie dye silk

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Would You Use an Online Pharmacy?

Image thanks to Assured Pharmacy

I have to be honest I've never considered using an online pharmacy before. I'm lucky to have enough time to go to the doctors, get my paper prescription and then head to the pharmacy but when I think back to working full-time and the restrictive opening hours of GP practices, it was quite a different story then. Also what about if I was a man with a sensitive problem, like erectile dysfunction. I'm sure I'd want help but I don't think I'd either A, want to miss work to go and see the GP or B, have to talk about this issue face-to-face to my doctor.

Can you trust an Online Pharmacy?
This is where an approved and reputable online pharmacy comes in handy. you can get the medication you need, without having to go out of your way and with minimal embarrassment factor. When I mentioned this to a couple of friends they were both worried that they'd receive substandard medication, or that it would come from aboard or not be legal in the UK but I was able to reassure them.

I've been checking out, who are approved by the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) and have a GMC (General medical Council) registered doctor issuing their prescriptions. I particularly liked that I could (within moments) check online that that the MHRA registration is current and that the prescribing doctor - Dr Roisin McHugh is currently registered and able to practise medicine.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Bio-degradable Pads now Available in your Teens Bettybox

Back in November my girls were sent a Bettybox each to try and review. We all absolutely loved the concept of a monthly subscription box that the girls can receive that contains all their sanitary requirements for the month but also has wonderful pick-me-up treats for that time of month. We all agreed that we probably couldn't afford to buy two boxes a month, every month but that they make wonderful treats every now and then. The classic Bettybox is £12.99 including delivery when you order as a one-off, £11.99 a month when you sign up for 3 months and you get one month free when you sign up for 6 months.

I was interested to hear recently that there is now also a pick and mix box, available for £5.99 a month. This is a no frills box were your young girl can choose up to 25 Bettypads that suit her and her period flow. Bettypads are a new product just launched by Betty and I'm so pleased to hear they are made from bio-degradable materials and packaging. The pad itself has an absorbent 100% organic cotton inner and a silky soft bamboo cover.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

How to Get the Best Deal when Renewing your Mobile Phone Contract

young people on a mobile
Teenagers Texting Image by Akhenaton Images from Shutterstock

I've recently just renewed my mobile phone contract and I wanted an upgraded phone but not to have to pay any more per month. I thought this was going to be a very tall order and I'd have to pay quite a lot up-front for a new phone or accept that my monthly bill would be increasing. But no, with some shopping around I was able to secure a new phone that met my specification, the same monthly tariff and only a £50 upfront phone cost. Then considering I was upgrading 40 days before the end of my contract term I even managed to avoid paying off the buy-out charge as I stayed with the same provider and thus the £50 was around the same money. I was suitably impressed!

About a month before the end of your existing contract is a perfect time to look for new deals and to speak to the retention team about leaving your existing network supplier

Let me share with you the stages I went through to get my great value new phone deal -

1.  Choose which Phone you want next
I've been an iPhone user since 2012 and generally I love my phone. I find iOS very easy to use and intuitive and importantly all my music is stored in iTunes and this has kept me tied in over the last 6 years. Personally I've never had the newest iPhone on the market as I can't bear to part with so much money and I've found that by the two year mark each of my iPhones are pretty much done-in and are ready for the scrap heap. At two years my iPhone 4 totally refused to start-up, my 5C camera stopped working and now my SE also has a poor and slow camera!

With this in mind I decided I ought to bite the bullet and give an Android phone a go and I assumed I'd move to Samsung as it is a name I know and trust and my girls had Samsung tablets that worked well but when I started to speak to people everyone kept telling me to try Huawei. The same kind of specs as iPhone and Samsung flagship models but at much lower prices.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Our Fabulous new Laptop Bags from Inateck

Just a few weeks ago JJ treated himself to a new laptop but not just any laptop, a super-special gaming laptop, one that cost twice as much as my regular laptop. With this in mind we said that he definitely needed to get some protection for it and something sturdy to be able to carry it around in.

We started to have a look around and settled on the Inateck anti-theft backpack with USB charging port and it was a super bargain price of just £23.99. The bag is available in a dark grey, black or blue and it has more pockets than you can ever need. Or so I thought but JJ tells me all the pockets are perfect as he can use the bag for school too and it means he won't have to root around looking for things as they can all have their specified space.

I'm pleased to say that the part where you put your laptop in is very padded and there is an elasticated strap that Velcros it in, so it can't be easily stolen. It takes up to a 15.6" laptop, which is good as that is what JJ has. Also inside is a USB cable that you can attach to a power bank, that will sit in the inside pocket and this then feeds out to a another USB port so you can plug your own cable and phone in to charge whatever gadget you want. You can see the external port in the far right photo below.

Friday, 18 May 2018

A Family Trip to Polesden Lacey - National Trust, Surrey

polesden lacey header

I absolutely adore National Trust properties. Looking around an old character house, exploring the grounds and enjoying some good food whilst I am there is my idea of a dream day. I am super lucky that there are so many of them around and I can always find somewhere new within a couple of hours of our home in East Sussex. 

A couple of weeks ago my girls had a Friday inset day so we headed off to Surrey and met my Mum at one of her local National Trust properties - Polesden Lacey and as I expected it was a delight. As you can see from the photos we were very lucky with the weather and this helped us to have a wonderful time there. 

Getting there/ Parking
We took a bit of an 'odd' route as we were picking my Mum up on the way but once we joined the A246 it was a very easy drive and Polesden Lacey was well-signed with the brown attraction signs. They advise that it is best to use the postcode KT23 4PZ for sat navs. There appeared to be plenty of parking and it was on hard-standing. This is free if you are a NT member or otherwise £2 for up to 2 hours or £5 for the whole day. 

There are toilets right at the entrance (including accessible ones and baby change) and also the pleasant Cowshed coffee shop with outside seating, which seemed to be a hit with many dog owners. In fact we saw so many dogs at this NT site and it thrilled my daughters. Dogs on a lead are welcomed in the pleasure gardens and in the wider estate but not in the house or the cafes. 

polesden lacey house

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Reasons to be Cheerful - A Right Mix! #R2BC

Good morning friends, how are you today?

All is fairly good here, my Miss E has a cold, which I think she got from me and I appear to have got from JJ. So we've had headaches, coughs and sneezes hanging around for the last week. Hopefully this will be the last of them and off they'll go!

1)  Miss E has been a trooper, despite feeling ill she has still gone in to school and sat her SAT's. I've been very happy to hear Miss M and Miss E both say they were easy and they feel really confident. They have an end of SATs party tonight at a local soft play and I pray Miss E is feeling well enough for it as she has been looking forward to it for weeks.

2)  I've hardly had to cook this week, which is always an R2BC for me as I don't particularly enjoy cooking. My husband has had relatives staying so we have joined them for food, been out and eaten up at the main house. Then tonight whilst the girls party, JJ will come with my husband and I for a yummy Indian meal whilst we wait to collect them.

Monday, 14 May 2018

5 Great Places to Mountain Bike as a Family in Sussex

mountain bike header
Image thanks to Jonty Wilde

Mountain Biking can be an immense amount of fun and it is a superb way to get or stay fit. My husband loves to go out with our kids for bike rides and I admit that I'm tempted to join them. It's therefore perfect that Halfords have created a comprehensive but super easy to navigate Beginners guide to Mountain Biking and now I can get myself kitted out and on the tracks with them.

Getting Kitted Out
Of course as a newbie I need to head off to my nearest Halfords to check out what mountain bike will suit me. There really isn't a standard bike that fits everyone, so you do need to go in and try them out. All our family's bikes have been bought from Halfords and we've found their staff to be knowledgeable and helpful. I also like the fact you can take your bike back in for a six week check after purchase and if anything needs adjusting they do this free of charge for you.

Once I've sorted the bike then I need to ensure I have the proper kit to wear as nothing is more important that personal safety. A well-fitting helmet is a must, comfortable trainers that are not too hard, gloves to help with my grip and some anti-glare sunglasses will be my first purchases.

Friday, 11 May 2018

Visiting Hever Castle With Kids - 10 Top Tips

hever castle title image

Last Bank Holiday Monday we had a wonderful trip to Hever Castle in Kent. It really is the most beautiful place and so well maintained, so we would definitely recommend it as a wonderful place to visit with kids, whatever their age. We visited with our 10 year old twins and 14 year old and they all had a good time. Younger kids would enjoy it even more I imagine.

Let me share with your our ten top family things to do at Hever Castle and some tips for enjoying them!

1)  Enjoy the Water Maze
This was definitely my kids favourite part of the day and I was glad we had taken some spare clothes and a towel. You definitely need these for a warm day as your children will want to spend ages in the water maze. Everyone has to wear footwear in the maze so maybe pack some flip-flops or water shoes, something you don't mind them getting soaking wet. Don't be fooled into thinking this is just for a hot day though as it will be far quieter on a mild day and you can see where the water will squirt, so just avoid those bits if you don't want too get wet.

hever castle water maze

hever castle water maze

Thursday, 10 May 2018

A Very Cheery Week #R2BC

I'm pleased to say this post was super easy to write this week. After a 4 days weekend, I was bound to have loads of things to be happy about.

1)  A fabulous couple of days with my parents, we headed to National trust Polesden Lacey and it was as fab as I thought it would be. The first picture is my Mum and the girls dancing down the stairs. My Mum is always up for a laugh with them and they love her for that.

2)  Saturday night TV is my favourite. I love Casualty and at the moment there is Britain's Got Talent and the new Who wants to be a Millionaire? too. Could I ask for any more? lol

3)  Sunday afternoon my husband and I took the girls into Hastings to catch a bit of the Jack in the Green festival.  We didn't see too much as we arrived late in the day but we did enjoy some drumming, the atmosphere of the crowds, fresh chips on the beach and a play in the penny arcade.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Looking Forward to our Eurocamp Holiday at Club Farret Camping, Vias, Languedoc

reception club farret camping

All the family are on countdown, there is just 15 days until we fly over to the South of France for our stay at Club Farret Campsite with Eurocamp. I'm really pleased to have chosen this 5 star parc for our next Eurocamp holiday. Brilliantly it is just 10 minutes from Beziers airport and we were able to pick up good value flights with Ryanair from Stansted and and a really competitive in-resort transfer with Sun Transfers.

I can honestly say that every one of us is excited and each of us for our own reasons. Let me share with you what we are looking forward to -

pool club farret camping

Enjoying the Swimming Pools
We are lucky enough to have two great pools at this campsite. There is Tao Beach with a swimming area for both adults and kids (which is heated in the low season), as well as a counter-current river and bubble massage seats. There's also the Pirates Bay Pool area where there is fun by the bucketful with slides, diving board and loads of water games. My girls will also be thrilled to find there is a swim up bar. I do hope they serve mocktails as that will make one of Miss M's dreams come true!

I also see an exciting new aquadome pool with a retractable roof is being built right now. Sadly I think we'll be a little early for it as I believe it opens in Summer 2018. I'll give you an update once we are back.