Sunday, 25 February 2018

Spring and Easter Inspiration - 30 Great Ideas for Families

Tulip fields post header
Tulip Garden Image, thanks to Shutterstock

Hip, hip hooray Spring is finally arriving. There are gorgeous yellow daffodils all over my house, the sun has been out more days than not this week and Easter is only five weeks away. Spring is my favourite season of the year, the days get longer, it’s sunny without being too hot and I just adore seeing the cherry blossom everywhere.

It therefore seems perfect to share this round-up of Spring and Easter inspiration from loads of amazing bloggers. Read on....

Crafts

1.  Fancy some fun with Easter crafts with the kids, then Cat has nine great ones for you, including chick bookmark corners and paper bunny ornaments.

2.  Make your own Easter Egg Sun catchers from Hodge Podge Days

Make your own Easter sun catcher

3.  If you need to craft your little one a costume for some Easter celebrations, then what about a donkey costume to remind you of Palm Sunday.

4.  How to make a complete Easter tree for under a tenner. I love any excuse to have a decorated tree even when it is not Christmas.

Friday, 23 February 2018

We're Going on a Rock Hunt #KindnessRocks

These amazing rocks were painted by the super talented Helen at The Crafty Norman, our local craft shop

In the middle of last year I read a post over on The Holy Mess about Kindness Rocks. I loved the idea and saved the link, thinking that at some point I'd write a post about it and maybe do something similar where we live and then I forgot all about it, until last week when I saw a friend post on her FB timeline that her daughter had been rock hunting in our home town, here in East Sussex.

It turns out that Kindness Rocks and rock hunting in general have become big news over the last year. It looks like the initiative started in the USA but I could also find early evidence in Australia too. But no matter where it started, it is wonderful fun and a really positive initiative that I wanted to be involved with.

Basically it is a pay it forward project where you paint a rock with a positive picture or phrase, such as breath, be kind, you matter, be brave, laugh often etc and then you hide it in your local area for others to find. When they find the rock there's a message on the back asking them to share a picture on the local FB page so others can see what has been found and so the creator can enjoy the joy of it being found.

examples of decorated kindness rocks
These are all rocks we have found in our local town Battle

They can then either re-hid the rock for someone else to enjoy or take it home and ideally put one into the project themselves, paying the kindness forward.

"One message at just the right time can change your entire day... outlook... life!" Megan Murphy, founder of The Kindness Rocks Project
If you put #Kindnessrocks or #TheKindnessRocksProject into Instagram or a search engine you'll find loads of information and so many amazing pictures and tutorials for painting stones. But it is super simple to be honest.

Children rock hunting

Making your own Kindness Rock

1.  Find a good rock to use. If you don't have any in your local area then please buy some from a home store or on Amazon. Don't take from another persons garden or such.

2.  Ensure your rock is clean and dry.

3.  Paint on it or draw with something like sharpies. There needs to be a good strong colour, so it will last.

4.  Put a message on the back so that the finder knows what to do with the rock. You can write on the rock but as I don't have great handwriting, I have printed out small labels to stick on the back. (They say - This is a #Battlerock, please take a photo and share it in the Battle Rocks FB group, then re-hid this stone, thanks.)

5.  Varnish the rock on both sides so it is weatherproof. I use DecoArt DuraClear varnish and a small tub goes a very long way.

A post shared by Michelle Trotta (@michelletrotta) on

Hiding your Rock

Search on FB for the name of your town and then Rocks, so my group is Battle Rocks and if there is one there, great you can join and get straight on and hide your rock. If not you might have to be the pioneer and start the group and drop a few rocks and see if it will catch on in your area and people will join in.

You need to be respectful as to where you put your rock as they should not be a nuisance.
  • Don't put in grass as they will damage lawnmowers
  • Don't put one too far into a large flower bed as you don't want people to have to tread on the bed to get it
  • Make sure it is not a trip hazard wherever you leave it
  • Make sure they are just in public areas, you don't want to encourage people onto private property

Now go rock hunting! We hope you enjoy. Our best day has seen 14 rocks found so far and we took one home as my daughter loved it and we re-hid all the others for more people to enjoy. We are currently making some new rocks to put out so we can pass on the kindness too.



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Kindness rocks project


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

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 
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Tuesday, 20 February 2018

6 Great UK Slime Tutorials - Floam, Cloud, Glow in the Dark and More

Slime making fun for all the family. Six great tutorials for making slime with UK ingredients

If you or your kids enjoy making slime and you need recipes that use ingredients readily available in the UK then you are in the right place as my kids adore making slime and we have loads of tutorials over on Youtube.

Great, stretchy slime is not difficult to make and all you need are some basic ingredients - PVA glue (the white stuff is far easier to use than clear which tends to be much more runny), bicarbonate of soda and something to activate it. I use contact lens solution, saline solution or eye wash (but it must contain boric acid, so check the ingredients). You can also use Lidl Foril washing detergent, Aldi Almat washing detergent or Kershaws washing starch, all readily available in the UK and not too expensive.

You can then add in all sorts of fun things to make different kinds of slime if that is your bag. Shaving foam is a great addition as that makes your slime all fluffy and of course different colours can be added via food colouring or paint. Then you have glitter, sequins, foam balls, beads, bands, gems, instant snow and anything else you fancy really!

Check out my YouTube channel - Michelle Twin Mum if you want to see all our slime tutorials.

Glow in the Dark Slime - Made by miss E using ingredients from Hobbycraft.



Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Taking the Road Less Travelled with Simpson Travel


Are you one of those people who get a bit excited when they discover something fantastic? Do you find yourself waxing lyrical about your discovery or the amazing service you’ve received and by the end of the week every one of your friends knows?

That’s me, I just can’t help it. When I make a discovery about something fabulous, be it a bargain bath bomb that smells divine, the AA man (or our angel in yellow as I dubbed him) who rescues your family or an airline that makes sure everything is perfect I just have to shout about it, both via my blog and in real life too.

I don’t want any of my friends to miss out and this is how I feel about Simpson Travel. Despite not yet having travelled with them I feel fully confident that they are the kind of company who will fulfil and even exceed every one of my expectations.

“The road less travelled is about making an effort and going the extra mile” Graham Simpson, Chairman of Simpson Travel

And I have lots of them. It was only two years ago that we first travelled abroad with the children. Prior to having them my husband and I travelled extensively and we loved staying in a gorgeous villa in an exotic Mediterranean destination but then along came three (expensive) children so we stayed in the UK and of course if the kids were having fun then so were we. However once you’ve experienced that glorious sunshine, the deep blue sea, the friendly locals in a Greek taverna and all that amazing fresh food you can never keep that longing at bay for too long.


So in 2016 and 2017 we headed to Spain, first to a hotel and the next year to a holiday parc and each holiday was delightful and special memories were made but I felt sure the kids weren’t quite old enough for a villa yet as what would they do? Well, it shows how much I knew as I was bowled away by how chilled my busy kids can get when presented with a pool and the Mediterranean sunshine. Last year our holiday highlights were time spent cooking meals together, family walks along the beach, a glass of something chilled in the bar on the evening and just relaxing together with a pack of cards or even some colouring.

As I looked at the Simpson Travel site I knew this was a company I wanted to travel with. Heck I want to work for them, you can see it is a company that care for its staff and that for me says they will also care for their customers. It’s great to see that they pride themselves on personal service and are keen to listen to what I, as the customer want. They are not just fitting square pegs into round holes they truly want to find the best holiday to make our family’s dreams come true.

The personal service doesn’t just stop when you leave the UK though; no, their in-country representatives are knowledgeable and personable with many living in the area you are visiting. I love the idea of all that insider knowledge they can share with me, the best beach cave to visit, where to park the car on market day and which restaurant serves the best steak.
“What really matters to us is Treating guests as we would like to be treated” Graham Simpson, Chairman of Simpson Travel

I kid you not when I say I’ve spent around three hours perusing the Simpson Travel website picking and choosing where we might travel to and I have found the perfect destination. Do you want to see it?

Twenty-three years ago my husband and I took our first holiday together and we flew to Mallorca, staying in the busy resort of Magaluf and it was perfect for us as 21 year old fun-loving youngsters. However we are now forty-something parents and I think it would be perfect to head back to Mallorca but to experience a very different aspect of the island.

Ca'nSion villa, image courtesy of Simpsons Travel

Instead of the busy south and a very commercial resort we’d love to head to the North-East to the town of Pollença where I have found the Ca'n Sion villa which has three bedrooms to house our family of five. There is plenty of room to cook and eat outside, comfy sofas to curl up on for a family Netflix night (there’s free Wi-Fi to help that happen), a master bedroom that leads out to a balcony and of course a 9 metre pool to keep the kids happy whilst I laze on the lounger with my book.

All accommodation “has the same common denominator – a wonderful location, stylish with comfortable beds and a professional and caring team” Graham Simpson, Chairman of Simpson Travel

What will my hubby be up to? Well, he’ll be out exploring the local area on foot. It is what he does every holiday and how he captures the most amazing photos. I’m sure we’ll join him to jump in the car and head to the Port de Pollença to experience the local culture, or go to the Pollença beach for some kayaking and swimming. Then of course Mallorca isn’t a massive island and with a car we can really take on board Simpson Travel's philosophy by taking the road less travelled and seeing how the Mallorcan’s really live.

Port de Pollença, image courtesy of Simpsons Travel

As well as the amazing villa Simpson Travel will also organise our flights and an air-conditioned hire car for use when we are there. For me that is perfection as it just takes all the strain out of booking a holiday and I think the price is reasonable too, it came up as £5,059 for our family of five to travel for a week from 24th August 2018.

I really do have an incurable case of wanderlust now and I’m praying that I might be lucky enough to be picked to be an ambassador for Simpson Travel. It would be my privilege to help spread the word to my 30,000 followers and blog subscribers about the amazing holiday experiences that they offer and if Simpson Travel are wondering if I am up for the job they should take a peek at my Work with me page where examples of recent collaborations and some client testimonials can be found.

In the words of my twins Simpson Travel, “Pick us, pick us please!”


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Sunset over cap salou

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Tuesday, 13 February 2018

There’s Positive Changes Afoot in 2018 with #BootsLittleBoosts

healthy supplements

We are now well in to February and my year has started off well. January was all about having my operation for menorrhagia and then healing from that and now I feel like life can really take-off. I no longer have a lack of energy, nor am I anaemic. 2018 is a year that I plan to believe more in myself and in God’s great plans for me, I wrote about it at the beginning of the year and posted my first update last week. The area of my life that I really need to get a grip on is my health and specifically my weight, which sadly, is affecting my health and not in a good way.

However, I am feeling very positive and I am going to take lots of little steps that all add up and will make a difference. If I’m honest many of these steps (or changes) are things I have committed to before and then they’ve not happened or I’ve let them slip but I’m not going to let that stop me. I have to believe that mentally I am now in the right place and that since I have been freed from my terrible (and constant) bleeding that things in my life can change for the better.

The fear of failure must no longer stop me. I’ve been reading a book recently (yet another one) called ‘The Year of Saying Yes’ by Helen Doyle and it is just a fiction book. A great story about a woman called Isobel who changes her life by saying yes to a series of monthly dares and it has been so helpful to me. I have come to realise that often I say no or I am passive in my actions because I am scared it won’t all work out. What the book has made me realise is that it is better to try, better to take one step, better to do it imperfectly, than not at all.

It felt like a God-moment when Boots recently got in touch and asked if I’d like to take part in their #BootsLittleBoosts campaign as this is all about how I am boosting my health and wellness routine for this New Year. They want to know how I’m going to shake off the excess of the winter festivities and to embrace the year ahead with new vigour. It fits in perfectly with my new ‘Believe’ philosophy.
So here goes, I know that Little Steps = Big Changes if I’m consistent and I’m going to set my focus in four key areas -

Thursday, 8 February 2018

A year of Believing - January Update #R2BC


At the beginning of the year I decided on the word 'Believe' as my guiding word for the year. The aim is that when I am stuck and not sure what I am doing or where I am going I need to believe that I'm on the right path, that God has got my back and that I can do this (whatever this may be).

January generally has been a really good month, I have been very gentle with myself and my expectations of what I'd achieve have been low, so there has been plenty of downtime to think, pray and read. It's amazing with all that time to ponder I have been thinking about work and what I want from life and I feel like I have some clarity.

Work and Volunteering
I've made the decision to finish another one of my voluntary roles at Easter and this will free up time to either find paid work or do other voluntary work that better meets my needs and skills. I've realised that I don't enjoy directly working with kids and I am much better in a HR, training, coaching or organisational role. I don't want to settle for something that doesn't set my heart on fire any more.

I met with the Volunteer Co-ordinator of the local Children's Centre and I am going along at the end of February for a course and hopefully afterwards there will be some volunteering opportunities that I am really interested in, things like running parenting courses or supporting new parents. I'm also keeping my eyes open for paid jobs but I have quite specific requirements as I can't see the point of working for really low pay in the wrong kind of role when I can earn decent money writing.

My Health
I had the operation I've been waiting for and I believe it has been a success. I felt like I was in limbo before it, just waiting to feel better and to have some energy again. I'm now a couple of weeks after my operation and life feels different. I really do feel invigorated again and I'm looking forward to it being at least a month after so I can see what my future cycles might be like.

My custom-made orthotic insoles arrived and they are fairly comfortable, although I had conflicting advise from the Podiatrist I saw this time as he felt I didn't need them and I just had to work on my stretching to loosen my calf and ankle muscles. He felt if three months of intensive stretching every day doesn't work then I will need an operation to lengthen the muscles. I am however believing that if I am consistent in my stretching that an operation will not be necessary.

I started to read a very good book called Believing God by Beth Moore, I found it hard to get in to at first but then it started to become more practical and spoke to me. So I am wearing a blue ribbon round my wrist for the next six months as a gentle reminder to make choices that are kind to me. I'm also trying to journal daily about where I have seen God working.


Losing Weight
Monday I have started to take Orlistat, which are fat blockers prescribed by the doctor, they are to aid my weight loss but are not for one minute an easy option. I need to be incredibly careful what I am eating whilst taking them or I could have very violent reactions, which would not be fun. I also have an induction at a new gym (right close to my house) on 22nd February and then I'll be exercising there twice a week on a Tuesday and Thursday evening whilst my girls are at clubs.

So for February I am believing -
  1. That my TCRE operation worked and I'll now have normal bleeding for the future
  2. That if I consistently keep stretching my leg issues and foot pains will go away
  3. That the right work for my skills will come along and I have to believe in God's incredible timing and not take things into my own hands (and get it wrong no doubt)
  4. That I will lose weight by eating sensibly and exercising regularly


I'm linking this post up with Becky at Lakes Single Mum for this weeks Reasons to be Cheerful linky.

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Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Consolidating Your Debt is a Great Way to Kick Off 2018

Young Family with Debt Problems image from Shutterstock

We'd all like to start the New Year with no debt, and no cash worries to speak of. Unfortunately, for most of us, that simply isn't a possibility. Though it would be nice to start the new year with no interest fees to worry about, if you can't pay off your debt just in time for Christmas, that doesn't mean that you can't start 2018 in a better financial situation than you were in the year before.

Debt consolidation could be the ultimate way to bring some structure into your payments, reducing the amount of interest you need to pay over time, and potentially keeping your stress levels to a minimum too.

Here, we're going to look at just some of the reasons why a debt consolidation loan could be a great way to start the New Year!

It Moves All your Loans into a Single Payment
Paying off debt can be a serious headache, particularly when you've got money owned to various lenders, in countless different places. A debt consolidation loan simply involves using a personal loan to pay off all the other accounts that you might have taken out with other providers. This means that you can instantly get rid of all the credit cards and overdrawn bank accounts that have been haunting you over the last few years. 

With a debt consolidation loan, instead of having to worry about multiple payment deadlines and other issues, you can simply make a single payment once a month towards your debt. This should allow you to focus entirely on that singular debt so that you can pay it off much faster. Instead of wondering which account you need to pay off first, you can also ensure that you're making a dent in all the money you owe each month too.

It Keeps Your Stress to a Minimum
Who doesn't want to live a happier, more stress-free life? Debt consolidation can help you to accomplish that goal because you no longer must worry about keeping track of multiple accounts at once. When you've got multiple debts in various places it can feel far more overwhelming than having a single owed balance - even when the amount you owe is the same either way.

Consolidating your debts can help you to feel as though you have more control over your finances, and it also cuts down on the number of frustrating letters you get through the door each month reminding you of how much you owe. 

You Could Benefit from a Lower Interest Rate
Perhaps the top benefit of debt consolidation is that it allows you to stop falling victim to the high-interest rates of credit cards and badly-chosen loans. Depending on your credit score, you might find that you can choose a personal loan with a much lower APR, bringing the amount you need to pay back to an absolute minimum. A lot of people don't realise that a maxed-out credit card can cost them a lot more in the long-run than a personal loan. You can use sites like Readies.co.uk to see specifically how different loan types compare with regards to annual interest rates.

At the same time, because personal loans can be quite flexible in the right circumstances, you might also be able to spread your payments out over a longer period too. This means that you don't have to spend as much of your monthly wages on paying off your debt. Although reducing the amount you pay each month will mean that you do stay in debt for longer, this can be an easier way for some people to manage their money, particularly when you're struggling with other expenses like rents, mortgages, or utility bills. 

You Might Improve Your Credit Score 
Finally, when you're constantly making late payments on your accounts because you can't keep track of all the money you owe, your credit score takes a serious beating. This means that even if you do end up paying back everything you owe, you might struggle to convince lenders that they should let you borrow from them in the future. A consolidated loan can make it easier for you to pay back the money you owe on time so that you can begin to build your credit.

Of course, the key to success with a consolidated loan in 2018 is making sure that you choose a structure that works for you. Ensure that you don't sign up for any loans that you can't afford to pay off on time, and make sure that you read all the fine print before you agree to any terms.





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Sunday, 4 February 2018

Review: Dining at The Lamb Inn, Pevensey Marsh, East Sussex

the lamb inn hooe
Thanks to Vintage Inns for the image

I've lived in East Sussex for coming on five years now and The Lamb Inn at Hooe, or Pevensey Marsh as they call it is a pub that I've heard a lot about. When I've asked the question 'where is good to eat locally?' I've had the The Lamb Inn recommended quite a number of times before and as such I have no idea why I have never been there.

My husband has been there before for a leaving do and he said it was great too and it was with this in mind that I said a very quick yes when I was asked to come and try out the new menus and check out the pub after a recent refurbishment. The Lamb Inn is part of the Vintage Inns chain, which I knew from when we lived in Herts and used to frequent a couple of their pub restaurants there.

Our family (minus JJ as he was working) headed over to the Lamb Inn for Saturday lunch. Despite it being a very miserable and grey February day the building is still beautiful and you can tell parts of it date back to 1084, where it got a mention in the Doomsday book as a shepherds cottage. Then in 1520 the cottage became an inn and there was a charter decreed to allow shepherds to bring their sick lambs in to warm by the fire. My girls were enthralled to learn this little piece of history about where we were to eat our lunch.

Feeling Welcomed
As soon as we entered the building we were greeted by a lady serving behind the bar. It was good to get such prompt attention as she was already busy with a customer but it gave an indication that customer satisfaction is important to the staff at the lamb Inn. Within just a couple of minutes Sarah came over to greet us and show us to our table and she was our waitress for the whole meal and what a great one she was. I'd definitely employ her.

I think they have done a really great job refurbishing the pub, it looks clean, well appointed and is very comfortable. There is nothing stark or corporate about it, it has a very homely feel with each table being a little different and the chairs being mismatched but equally comfy. There are two distinct sections to the pub with the area to the left of the bar being much more light and open plan and the part we went in to was full of character with lower ceiling beams and plenty of cosy nooks.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

The Highs and Lows of my Spa Day at The Grand Hotel, Eastbourne



Earlier this week I enjoyed a leisure day at The Grand Hotel Spa in Eastbourne with my friend Annie. I had some spa vouchers to use and it seemed a good idea to gift Annie half as her Christmas present. I choose the Grand Hotel as it isn't far from our homes and as it is a 5 star hotel I expected the spa to be pretty luxurious and it certainly looked good in the photos on the website.

We arrived to the hotel about half an hour before I had booked our treatment times and our first struggle was finding some free parking. The streets round the hotel generally have free on-street parking but it was super busy. You can park in the grounds of the Grand but that's £25 a day and you pay to park on the seafront as well. Luckily just as I was about to give in and pay we found a space close by and headed in to the hotel. We were greeted by a lovely jolly doorman who gave us instructions were to go. Let the fun commence!


Great hall at the grand hotel eastbourne

The first impression of the hotel is fabulous, it's not called the Grand for nothing but as we headed in the lift to the basement the view gets consistently more grotty. Old carpet, plain cream walls and not a touch of glamour in the corridors or reception areas. Thankfully the staff were in total contrast to the look of the area and they were great. Really friendly, super professional and nothing was too much trouble for them.