Saturday, 22 February 2020

Put Your Home in Order – Useful Tips

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

{This is a collaborative post}

For many of us, cleaning means a lot of unpleasant, time-taking hard work. However, in reality, there are some simple tips which will ease the process of cleaning, and most importantly, change your attitude to the cleaning process.

The primary cause for negative attitudes towards cleaning your house is the wrong internal motivation or even a complete lack of motivation. Often, one person does most of the cleaning work, but the whole family creates a mess. In addition, no matter how much time was spent putting everything in order, by the very next day the mess seems to have recreated as if by itself! It can feel neverending. 

Here I'll share some tips on how to make cleaning your home pleasant, easy and not burdensome.

Cleaning as you go

Urgent cleaning prevents a shallow, easily removable mess from escalating into a serious problem. For example, after cooking dinner, a few greasy spots remain on the stove, they are barely noticeable and do not bother anyone at all, you could easily leave them there. However, if you don't wipe the mess away immediately, and if you leave the dirty stove unattended every day, then a multi-layer burnt crust will form, which will require a large amount of cleaning products and hours of elbow grease, all when you could have spent just two minutes each day keeping your stovetop nice. It really is a false economy to leave it for another day.

Thursday, 20 February 2020

A Gratitude Catch-Up!

Hey friends. It is time for a little catch-up, and rather than telling you about the bits that have been a bit tricky or darn-right exhausting, I'm going to share my gratitude for all the great things that have been going on over the last month or so.
  • I've been pro-active with chasing up paid work and January was a really good month. February is quieter but a couple of jobs came in just before the weekend.
  • Time with my boy - we spent an afternoon together at TEDx Tunbridge Wells at the beginning of the month and had a fab Prezzo meal afterwards. Even better was that I had bought a voucher from Red Letter Days for about £20 as there was a deal and money off. Three courses and a drink each for £0, I was very happy!

  • I got my monthly email from Kobo and it informed me I had read for 27.5 hours in the last month.  For me, that is 27.5 hours of pure joy, as I only tend to read fiction on my e-reader.
  • Every week recently, we've been having a yummy home-cooked roast dinner. I love doing a roast with loads of different veggies, that we can all sit at the table and eat together. These simple things really make a difference with teens. 

  • I've started coaching one of the volunteers here and it has reminded me, how much I like positively feeding into others lives.
  • I'm reading a good book on forgiveness at the moment, and it is really helping in one of my significant relationships.
  • I got to spend the day with my friend Krisha, and it was so nice to walk and catch up together.

  • I've had a couple of really nice lunches out with my hubby whilst the kids have been at school. As he is working at the weekend at the moment, this gives him a day off in the week and it is good to spend time together and just chat.
  • My husband and I took the girls over to IKEA and Bluewater for a shop. I really enjoyed visiting the Lindt shop and got to try out some new varieties of Lindor. I am loving the coffee and the hazelnut, which were both new to me. 

  • We've joined a fabulous church, and I am so grateful for the good teaching and the friendly people. We got invited to lunch the other week with the youth worker and we had such a lovely time. We're also enjoying going to the fortnightly house group.
  • We had a very nice trip over to National Trust Bodiam Castle with the girls, and are looking forward to going to Scotney Castle this coming Sunday.

Thank you, Jesus, for all the blessings you bring in to my life, big and small. They make such a difference.

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Puppy Care: How To Look After Your New Furry Arrival

{This is a collaborative post}

When you decide to push the boat out and take on the responsibility of a puppy, it can be so much fun for the whole family. Dogs truly are man's best friend, so having a puppy of your own can provide you with so much positivity and joy! However, it takes dedication and effort to provide the best level of care for your new arrival, and you must take steps to ensure that your dog can be well looked after until the end of its days - a pup is for life, not just for Christmas. Having a puppy can also be a great learning experience for your children, as introducing them to animals in such a fun and enjoyable way will encourage them to form bonds and lose their fear of other species. So, what are you waiting for?

If you’ve decided to get a puppy for your family, then read on to uncover some of the best tips and tricks that can help you to provide them with the best level of care to improve their quality of life and make the most of your time together!

The Right Breed 

Choosing the right breed for your family pet is one of the most important features of your project. Opting for the wrong kind of dog could mean that your family does not develop a positive bond with the animal, therefore resulting in a bad quality of life and eventual rehoming. You must consider the basics, such as the age of your children and the experience they have with dog handling, otherwise, they could get scared or frightened and potentially receive some kind of injury when mishandling the dog. Small pups are often much more suited to families with younger children, as they appear less intimidating and can perhaps do less damage, however, some breeds such as Jack Russell terrier are partial to nipping and barking as a larger animal might also during play.

Monday, 17 February 2020

Supporting your Friend through their Divorce

female friends walking a country path
Photo by Joseph Pearson on Unsplash
{This is a collaborative post}

Whilst the number of heterosexual couples getting a divorce in 2019 may have dropped by over 10,000 from the year before, 90,871 (Source: ONS) is still an incredibly large number of people choosing to end their marriage.  As such you are bound to have friends going through this difficult period. Even if your friend is the one who instigated the divorce and was fully fed-up in their marriage, it can still be a very tough time for them and it's good to be able to offer support and let them know you are there for them.

Here are a few ideas of how to support your good friend thought their divorce -

Be available to listen

Your friend many have loads of unresolved issues and hurts that they need to get off their chest, so it is good if you are just able to be there for them and listen. You don't have to provide answers, or platitudes, just show you are interested and offer a big hug as necessary.

Don't judge or place blame

Even listening to your friend talk for hours, you may never know exactly what went on it their marriage, so make sure that you do not judge or apportion blame. No-one wants to hear that they should have listened to you and left their spouse years ago, nor that you saw this coming. Avoid bad-mouthing their ex too, as they may just get back with them again in the future and then where will you be?

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Have you considered Engineered Wood Flooring?

Comfortable seating area with engineered wood flooring
The images are all of the newly installed engineered wood floors at Ashburnham Place where I live
{This is a collaborative post}

Growing up as a child in the seventies and eighties everyone I knew had a carpeted house, in fact, most had a shagpile in at least one room. As I grew older trends started to change, carpets got cheaper but the quality also seriously declined and it seems that due to that, and the worries about keeping them clean, as well as the rise of allergies that many people moved to a hardwood floor, more in line with what our European and American brothers were doing.

Vinyl flooring or lino was a cost-effective and easy choice for quite a while, especially in bathrooms and kitchens were traditional wood flooring was unsuitable due to the amount of moisture and potential water spills. However, as home design moved on and houses became more slick and modern, a vinyl-covered floor didn't really cut it. Thankfully we've seen the rise of the engineered wood floor over the last few decades and today it is accepted as a really good choice for flooring that looks fantastic and just like real wood (as of course, it is real wood) and is long-lasting and durable.

What is engineered wood flooring?

It is a number of layers of veneers, which are thin slices of different real woods put together and sandwiched under pressure with a high-quality glue. The top layer is the highest quality wood, giving the beautiful final appearance. Make sure you do your homework when choosing your engineered wood floor as not all engineered wood flooring is the same, it can come in a range of thicknesses from 14mm - 20mm and depending on the footfall and where the floor is placed will help you decide what is best. Ask for boards that have at least a 4-6mm top layer, to help protect from damage over time.

Friday, 14 February 2020

Getting To Grips With Everyday Technology

Image Credit: Janeb13 on Pixabay
{This is a collaborative post}

If you find that you frequently struggle to understand what you are meant to do with the technology in your life, you are not alone. A lot of people feel this way, and, likely, it will only continue to get more and more confusing and frustrating as time goes on and technology becomes more and more advanced. Of course, there is plenty that you can do to ensure that you understand it better and that you are getting to grips with it better, so that is a good thing to bear in mind. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the essential things you can do to make this process a lot easier, so that much of your life is going to be a lot easier too. Let’s take a look at this in some detail.

Simplifying Your Usage
First of all, you should bear in mind that you only have to use technology to the degree that you want to. You should not feel as though you have to use it any more than that. If you force yourself to do that, you will only end up being more stressed, and that is not the direction we want to be moving in here. So the first thing to do is to look at the technology you use in your life every day, and ask yourself whether it might be necessary or whether you might be able to do away with it instead.

If you can apply this kind of rigorous vision to all the technology in your home, you will already find that your usage of technology is much simpler indeed. So that is something to be aware of - and likewise, you should make sure that you are not over-complicating things by trying to use as much technology as possible. If you can do that, you will find that technology becomes much less stressful over time.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

When did you last check your Pension? It could be time for a Health Check

Photo by Michael Longmire on Unsplash

{This post was commissioned by Profile Pensions/ Mumsnet}

With an ever-aging society as people live longer, it’s now quite different as a woman heading towards pensionable age. Well, I say heading towards, but I am actually quite a few years off the age to claim my state pension. As a youngster, all women could take their state retirement benefit from age 60, but now for me, as someone born in 1973, I’ll be 67 when I can take my state pension, that will be in 2040.

Will my State Pension be Enough?
If I was of the age to retire today the full level of the new state pension is £168.60 a week (£8,767.20 a year), as long as I have 35 years of NI contributions. If we assume that this raises in line with inflation, it means that when I retire this would be no-where near enough to allow me to live a comfortable lifestyle. How do you pay rent, bills, food and other living costs on around £700 a month, especially if you don’t have a council or mortgage-free house?

I input a few brief details into the Profile Pensions calculator to see how much yearly income my husband and I might need if we were to retire at age 67, whilst renting a house, and it showed that between us we’d need £24,589 per year on top of our state pension. Are our pensions operating at a level to give us that kind of yearly pay out in twenty years? I suspect not.

Sunday, 9 February 2020

Planning our Travels for 2020

{This post contains gifted content}

As soon as Christmas is over, I am always keen to start planning the year ahead and plotting out when we might be getting some nights away and quality family time. We're not a family that has loads of disposable income, so I can't generally plan European short breaks and Florida summer holidays. I have to be a bit more creative with the money we have, and try to make it go as far as possible. It's also incredibly fortunate that I can secure some breaks away due to this blog.

2020 is panning out really well and I am feeling excited and looking ahead to the great times we'll have. The kids half term is next week and I'm always dubious to book anything much in the February half term as you can never tell what our weather will do. So, the kids and I will just be heading for February for a few days to spend time with my parents, and we always love doing that.

April - Spring Harvest at Butlins, Skegness
On Easter Sunday we'll head up to the in-laws to celebrate Easter and then on to Skegness for our yearly holiday at the Spring Harvest Christian festival. JJ won't be coming with us, as he will be staying with my parents and revising for his GCSEs that will start the next month.

So, it will be just the four of us and the one good point of that, is that it is cheaper, but I always miss my boy when he isn't there. I love this holiday as it is a mix of relaxation and fun, with swimming, the fun fair and chilling with my hubby, as well as great times of teaching and celebration. It is completely joyous and I haven't been to Skegness since 2011, so it will be great to experience the changes they've made there in the last decade.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Low Cost or Free February Half Term Fun in East Sussex

We're only a couple of weeks away from the February half-term and the weather can be unpredictable at this time of the year, so if you're anything like me, you'll be looking for things to do with the kids that will keep them occupied, but won't break the bank.

Check out my round-up of fun activities going on in East Sussex for February 2020 half term -

Scotney Castle, National Trust, Lamberhurst
The National Trust are amazing at catering for primary school aged children and each half-term there seems to be some great activities going on. Scotney Castle has a murder mystery trail this half-term, along with a great outdoor play area and of course the ongoing initiative of ticking off the 50 things to do before you're 11 3/4.

Scotney Castle is a great site as it has the large manor house, which you can explore inside, the old castle ruins, again you can explore inside, massive grounds, a play area and cafe.

Check out my review of Scotney Castle. We are very lucky in East Sussex as there are loads of good NT sites. I've written about Batemans, Bodium Castle, Standon, Sheffield Park, Sissinghurst Gardens and they're all fun to visit, especially if you have membership!

Top Tip: Visit the second hand bookshop where you can always pick up a great book for a donation, and whilst you're there have a look through the binoculars and see if you can spot some birds out the massive windows.

Friday, 31 January 2020

A Beautiful Lunch at the Vintage Inns Beachy Head Pub

Beachy Head Vintage Inn

Last week my husband and I had the pleasure of a weekday off together, so we decided to head to the Eastbourne area for a walk along the beautiful cliffs at Beachy Head and to enjoy lunch at the Beachy Head Vintage Inn pub. We’ve eaten there before so we were expecting it to be good and we certainly weren’t disappointed.

Check out the Vintage Inns App
I downloaded the app as I knew you could get some good deals via that. Straight away I saw there was a 33% off food voucher running for all of January, but noted this couldn’t be used on set menus. I booked a table via the app and this was easy and I received a confirmation quickly.

Arrival at the Beachy Head Vintage Inn
We know this area well, so it was easy for us to find the pub, and even for someone travelling there for the first time, if you follow the signs or your SatNav for Beachy Head you’ll arrive easily. Make sure you park in the pub car park behind it, so you don’t have to pay, as most local car parks up on the cliffs are local council pay and display ones.

The pub looked clean, well maintained and welcoming. When we went inside it became clear that it wasn’t the busiest day and we just grabbed a table where we fancied. There are good seating areas outside for warm weather use, at both the front and back of the building. The views from the back are breath-taking and stretch right across to the lighthouse, Birling Gap and Seven Sisters cliffs from inside the pub/ restaurant.

Thursday, 30 January 2020

How to Save Money on your Family Travel

{This is a collaborative post}

Family travel! It can be one of the most fun and rewarding experiences. Unfortunately, it can also cost a lot of money, making it tough for many families to travel as much as they would like. The good news, however, is that there are some strategies you can use to travel without busting your budget. Keep reading to find out what they are -

1.  Compare prices
The great thing about booking holidays these days is that it can all be done online. The advantage of booking online is that you can compare you break with similar ones to check that you are getting the lowest price possible. However, doing so isn't quite as easy as when you are purchasing a physical product. The reason being that what vacations include and how they are displayed can often be quite different from provider to provider. 

You may have also noticed that the low price you discover when first visiting the site fluctuates and even goes up daily. Although, searching again via a VPN, using an incognito page or after clearing your computer's cookies should take care of that particular problem, and you won't end up with overinflated prices.

2.  Use exclusive offers run by tour operators
Utilising the special offers that tour operators run can be very beneficial, many operators offer particular deals for families with younger children, such as free or half-price child places. These kind of deals that can save you a significant amount of money, especially if you have a brood that is on the larger side. But remember to book early, to bag them, as there is normally a limit number of spaces available. 

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

5 Big Challenges That All Mums May Face

Image Credit: Sasin Tipchai on Pixabay
{This is a collaborative post}

Everybody knows that being a mum is one of the hardest jobs there is, and many feel like they are out of their depth. They think that the challenges they face every single day are unique to them and that all of the other mums out there are handling things a lot better than they are. But that isn’t true at all and the reality is, it’s a steep learning curve for everybody and all mums face the same set of challenges every single day. If you are feeling overwhelmed, have a read through this list of some of the biggest challenges that mums face, and know that you aren’t the only one.

Judgment From Other Mums 
This is a big problem and even though we don’t mean it, we can all be guilty of judging people from time to time. When it comes to parenting choices, everybody has to decide what they think is best for their own child, but this can lead to a lot of judgment from other mums. Things like breastfeeding, for example, can be very controversial and mums that choose not to might feel judged. If you feel that you are constantly justifying your parenting choices, you need to change the way you think. The truth is, there is no right way to do things and if you are doing what you genuinely think is best for your child, you’re doing enough and it doesn’t matter if other people don’t agree with your parenting style. 

Being Ignored 
Kids all go through those stages where they will ignore whatever you say, and it’s so frustrating. A lot of mums worry that it’s their bad parenting and they haven’t done enough to discipline their child, but that's not the case, kids are just difficult sometimes. Check out this list of funny things that mums say to their kids and you’ll realise that you aren’t the only one that is constantly saying the same things over and over, only to have it fall on deaf ears. It’s so frustrating, but you just have to keep going and eventually, you will get through to them. The all grow up in the end!

Monday, 27 January 2020

10 Top Tips for Dating when you're Divorced

Dating couple cuddling
Photo by Devon Divine on Unsplash
{This is a collaborative post}

I have to be honest I am well out of the game when it comes to dating; it is like another world now, as the last time I dated was in 1994 and that's quite some years ago! However, just because I'm not dating (I don't think my husband would approve), doesn't mean that many of you aren't. I know from my local friends that there are many people my age who are now in the second stage of life and divorced dating. So I thought it was high time that I chatted to a few of those friends and put together some tips for anyone who is now dating after a divorce.

1. Take it slowly at first
Even if your divorce comes as the end to the worst marriage on the planet there is still bound to be a sense of loss tied up in the relief, and as such it is important to allow yourself some time to breath, and even grieve before you dash straight back into full-on dating. Make sure you have some quiet time focusing on you and thinking about how you want your next relationship to look. What is important to you, and how can you be a better partner next time?

2.  Decide what you're looking for
I don't mean draw up a massive list of what this partner of your dreams must look like or do. Just have a good think about what is important to you. We are all different and it doesn't matter if your friend Sally will only date a man with his own home, or a full head of hair. What are your non-negotiables? Mine would be, that he'd have to be kind and good around my kids.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Supporting your Child through their GCSEs

person studying
Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

It’s January and when you have a child in year 11 and getting ready to sit their GCSE examinations in the summer, that means mock exams time at most schools. My son is right in the middle of his, he had three in November and now the rest of them in a three-week block in January. So far, he has sat eight of them and whilst he’d happily go without the mocks, I am really pleased the schools do them.

When I’ve asked secondary school teacher friends what the best way to revise is, they have all said that the best thing your child can do is complete past papers. This doesn’t actually give them new knowledge, or even revise what they know already but it allows them to recall their learning, to give exam style structure in the answers and to gain valuable feedback from the person marking it, as to where they could improve and gain valuable points. An extra point or two on a paper could be the difference between grades, and thus a pass or a fail.

Let me share with you how I am supporting JJ in the run up to his GCSEs -

1.  Being available - have you noticed that teenagers never want to talk to you when you make yourself available? My JJs favourite times to chat to me are as soon as he walks in from school and I’m working, or around 11.15pm, when he should be sleeping! Yes, it can be annoying, but I’ve learnt it is far more important to stop what I’m doing and give him 15 minutes to download his concerns, thoughts or questions. This is particularly important during the actual exam period, then if your child feels as if an exam went wrong it’s good to be able to talk about it and externalise the associated feelings.

2.  Let them set the agenda - your child is now 15 or 16 years old and as such we have to give them a level of trust. Allow them to choose what they will study and when, of course we can offer advice, but it is really important that we don’t continually badger them to do things our way. I know that if I asked JJ too much about his revising he would clam up and probably do less as he’d be annoyed at me.  Let’s afford them the level of trust they deserve, and of course each child is different. 

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

What to Wear When You Work From Home (Aside From Pyjamas)

Photo by AllGo  on Unsplash

{This is a collaborative post}

Now, more than ever, many people are working from home or via a remote location, which has sparked many discussions on workplace productivity, diversity and mental health. But where is the discussion about how working from home affects workplace fashion? Well, we are about to have it right here.

The number of people telecommuting or working remotely has grown by 159 percent over the last 12 years, according to a study conducted by Global Workplace Analytics. This has provided both employees and employers with more flexibility in all aspects of business, and it has virtually eliminated workplace dress codes.

If you work from home, it may be easy to stay in your pyjamas all day, not brush your teeth until 5 p.m. or work from the comfort of your own bed. And statistically, while those who work remotely are more productive than their counterparts who work in an office, all of those factors above could lead to a loss in productivity, creativity and motivation while on the job.

If you’re looking to revamp or improve your work from home wardrobe, consider this style advice and these hacks that will have you looking fabulous while feeling comfortable.

Tops Perfect for Remote Workers
If you work from home, you could stay in your favourite oversized t-shirt all day. But what happens when you have to video conference in or run to a quick meeting at a local coffee shop? That t-shirt isn’t going to cut it. Think about bold plus size blouses that will have you feeling motivated and on your A-game.
      Flowy TopsOf course, no one wants to be wearing a blazer while they work from home because that’s just simply not comfortable. But when you opt for a flowy blouse with unique embellishments, you’re pairing comfort with style, which should make you feel great about your remote look.
      Opt for BlackBlack will always be a sharp colour that can make even the most comfortable clothing look like it belongs in an office. Whether you choose a blouse made out of a soft, stretchy jersey material or a more structured blouse, if it’s black, you will feel put together and chic.
      PrintapaloozaIf you still need a “pick me up” after your first cup of coffee in the morning, throw a blouse on that has a bold pattern or vibrant colour to wake you up. According to colour theory, warmer bright colours can positively impact your mood, and if you’re feeling confident and happy, you are more likely to be more productive.

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Another dose of Thankfulness

I feel like I have had the most amazing week. Some of that is because there have been some great times, but I think the rest is just that I am grateful for my life. I don't really share any of the tough times on here anymore, some of them are not just mine to share and others are just too private. As the children grow older and near adults, I can't share their stuff, it's not mine.

Does that mean I am not being authentic on my blog anymore? I do worry about that, but it is what it is. I can't and won't share parts of my life, they're private, but what I do still share is the overall feeling of my life and that is that I am grateful and so fortunate to have good people around me.

So no, I don't feel like I am faking it, or being overly positive as a mask for the less good things that happen, or the ongoing situations that make me sad.  I am sharing everything I feel I can share, those things that are mine alone. Maybe one day, when I write my book, I'll be able to share some of the others.

This week a few of the things that have made me really happy are attending a conference at my home this weekend and having a great session about serving in your community and not continually seeking the next move.

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Be Happy, Be You - A Great Resource for your Teens Happiness #BeHappyBeYou

{This post contains an affilate link - as an Amazon Associate I earn from 
qualifying purchases, any affiliiate links will be marked with #ad}

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Be Happy, Be You before Christmas and I've enjoyed reading it, sharing it with my twin girls and trying out some of the suggested tasks. Instantly when one of my 12 year old's picked the book up, she commented on how nice the cover was. Apparently it is a good font, and then upon flicking through the book, she liked the layout as it wasn't just words. So well done Becky and Penny, you've done good for pick-up appeal, but then of course you would, you're both parents of teens.

Be Happy, be You is the newest book from Penny Alexander and Becky Goddard-Hill, who also penned the inspirational Create Your Own Happy, which was designed with younger children in mind. This latest book is a positive and insightful guide for teenagers, it gives them the tools they need to build their confidence, eliminate negative feelings and boost their happiness in all areas of their life. Being a teen can bring some real challenges with it, and even more so nowadays with every part of life being on display via social media.

Even before receiving the book, I felt confident it would be a great resource as I've known both Penny and Becky for a number of years now, and between them they have a wealth of experience. Penny as a teacher and writer, and Becky as a social worker and life coach; as well as both being mothers of course.

Monday, 13 January 2020

Christmas at Bateman's National Trust, East Sussex

Christmas tree at Bateman's

Bateman's is the former home of the renowned author Rudyard Kipling. It is a beautiful sandstone house surrounded by gardens, farmland and the beautiful rolling East Sussex countryside. I love that you can acess most of the house and get a real feel for how Rudyard must have lived. Walking through his study is particularly special. 

Bateman's house

Christmas Theme 2019

The theme for Christmas 2019 was Rudyards book series, the 'Just So Stories' which were aimed at younger children. Each room was themed around a particular story and this worked really well. I have visited Bateman's a couple of times before and this special theming added an extra something for this visit.

Friday, 10 January 2020

Feeling Grateful Every Day

As I walked into the hospital this morning for my appointment, I could feel my heart swelling with gratitude. Not because life is perfect and I have it all sorted, but because God is good and I'm thankful for the mercies He shows me.

I felt at peace with the world and as I left the hospital knowing I needed another operation, I was quite happy with this. It doesn't take a lot to throw me off kilter though, as one phone call from the girls Head of House at school and I started to feel anxious and discontent.

It's nothing major, and I hope after a good chat later with one of the girls I'll feel better. I hate it when it feels as if one of my kids is getting the rough deal. She isn't an angel at all, but the other child definitely has played their part in their rocky relationship.

Confrontation and feeling powerless in a situation are two things sure to throw my balance, but I'm not going to let them steal my joy and that's why I'm putting together this gratitude list. And if it's running, I'll add this post to the Reasons to be Cheerful linky.

Today's gratitude's are -
  1. A lovely warm shower when I woke.
  2. The kids were all up, sorted and out the door for the bus in good time.
  3. A traffic free journey to the hospital, getting me there in time to enjoy a bacon butty before my appointment.
  4. No delay for my appointment; I was in on time and they've confirmed I'll be having another operation to help with my terrible periods.
  5. I treated myself to a fresh raspberry scone and clotted cream to enjoy later.
  6. The car has been cleaned inside and out (and not by me!)
  7. I'm all caught up on my blog work and I'm praying for some new work to come in.
  8. We have a weekend ahead with no plans, except church. I wonder what we'll get up to? 
  9. I'm spending some time in the prayer centre this afternoon, tuning in to God.
  10. I found out there is a new episode weekly of Chicago Medical and that's fab, as I love it! 
  11. A couple of sale tops in Salisbury's and two pairs of PJ's in M&S, all paid for with Christmas vouchers.
Today's a good day. Every day can have elements of good when you seek the joy and look to be content with what you have in life.

Wishing you a fabulous weekend friends. Mich x

Monday, 6 January 2020

2019 - What a Great Year!

I've really enjoyed spending the last few days looking over 2019 and reflecting and praying on what has happened this year. In all, it has been a really good year as I have learnt that my immediate future is based at home - working from here, being available to my children, supporting my husband, volunteering and making sure that I take time to spend with God. Also finding a balance between focusing on getting myself healthier by eating better and exercising, and making sure that my outlook is on other people, so I don't become too self-absorbed. 

It's funny as I never pictured myself as a stay-at-home-mum, or even a work-at-home-mum. My future was always firmly mapped out as a very successful career woman. I knew I'd do well, earn a lot of money, have a big detached house and drive a Mercedes. They were all aspirations before I became a Christian and had my whole life turned upside down. Now I earn very little, live in a house that comes with my husbands job, drive a practical car, I share with my husband and I am more fulfilled than I ever dreamt I could be. Life can surprise you!

Thursday, 2 January 2020

2009 - 2019 A decade in Photos

I kept seeing people doing the #10yearchallenge on social media, sharing a picture of themself and their immediate family in 2009 and then again for the end of the decade in 2019, and I really liked the idea of looking back and seeing what has happened in this decade. How have we aged?

I realised quite quickly though, that for me, most of my life changing moments happened before 2009. By then I was already married (7 years), had owned three houses (since 1997) and was mum to a 6 year old and 2 year old twins. I was happily working part-time at the University of Herts in HR and had been there for around 5/6 years, and had completed my Masters in HR two year prior.

2009 proved to be an allusive year for a photo of the five of us, and I couldn't find any, so I'll start the photos in 2010, this one was taken in June, so it is just before the girls 3rd birthday and we were at a family wedding. It's not the best quality but you can see how young and fresh- faced dh and I look, and I love the joy on JJ's face. So funny to see him missing some teeth, when he is now such a giant!

Saturday, 28 December 2019

Booking Your Airbnb Property - 14 Top Tips

Squirrel court lounge
Squirrel Hill Court, Bradford Airbnb, where we stayed May 2019

Christmas is over and I hope you had a marvellous time. If you're anything like me, your mind will now have moved onto the need to travel and get some holidays/ short breaks booked for 2020, so you can have something to look forward to.

In recent years we've booked a few stays in the UK in Airbnb properties and we've really enjoyed them. With a family of five, it is so good to have the right amount of bedrooms, some outside space and a lounge/ kitchen, rather than all being cooped up in a couple of hotel rooms.

We've been very lucky with the four properties we've booked and they've all turned into truly wonderful holidays with loads of memories made. Our breaks have been in the UK, but I know many friends who have booked abroad and been very happy. In fact I don't personally know anyone who has had an awful experience with Airbnb, but I know they are out there, you only have to google and you'll come across a load on the Internet (but my advise, don't bother!).

I think with some good research before booking, and trusting your gut when you interact with the property owner you can be as sure as possible of a good stay. Here are my top tips for booking your Airbnb property right now -

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Personalised Gifts from Vistaprint - Review

Vistaprint is a brand name I've known for a very long time now, in fact it was the first place I ever bought proper business cards when I went to my first blogging conference back in 2011. Their service was great then and I am pleased to say that now, having used them in 2019 too, I can honesty say it is still great.

They asked me if we'd like to try out their personalised gifts service, and yes of course we wanted to. I love photos and I love gifts that are made using my photos, they just feel so very special and are great to give to others to show you put some thought into what to buy them.

I found the photo upload and product creation process really easy with Vistaprint, their system is very intuitive and things were created in moments. It was also good that it was very obvious where I needed to allow photos to cover to ensure a good print coverage on the item.

We ordered a few different things, let me share them with you -

Personalised Mug, from £6.65
I absolutely adore this mug, the exterior could be white or black and you can choose from 6 interior and handle colours. Then you personalise with text or text and photos, and there are so many templates from you to chose from; you definitely could find something for everyone. You can go for separate images on each side, or go for a wrap around photo, the choice is immense and totally yours!

The colours I chose (white exterior) means my mug is microwave and dishwasher safe, but if I had gone for a black exterior then it would have been hand wash only. The mug capacity is 335mls and it is a good size with a very comfy handle.

The regular price is £6.65 for a white mug with white handle, or £8.64 for a white mug with coloured handle and inside, however there seems to be deals on all the time. I've looked on the site many times in the last 3 or 4 weeks as I have been creating things and every time there has been a deal to be had. At the moment it is 50% off, which is fantastic.

As you can see I went for a washing line effect and pegged photos on for my Dad of all his grand and fur babies! This mug customised in this way would normally be £10.64, but as mentioned there is 50% off right now.

Monday, 9 December 2019

Christmas Gift Guide - For the Hard to Buy for Man - 13 Great Ideas

hard to buy for man gift guide header

{This post contains samples gifted to me for review and also affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, any affiliate links will be marked with #ad}}

I think we've all got those people in our lives, the ones that it is so hard to buy gifts for, and in my experience they have generally been men! It might be that there is nothing they want, or that they are super fussy, but whatever the reason, it makes it super tricky as someone who loves to be generous.

My Dad is one of the best 'tricky to buy for' men as there is genuinely nothing he wants and he'll be content with whatever you buy him. So a bar of chocolate or some socks will make him smile. Whereas men in the wider family do seem to want a gift but they won't give me any hints, so they end up with the same thing, year in and year out. 

This year I am trying to expand my horizons and theirs, and find some different gifts to give to the hard to buy for man. Here are a few ideas....

1.  Countryfile Live August 2020, £12 + booking fee, first release price
If you know the hard to buy for man in your life would enjoy an experience more than a physical present, why not treat him to a day at BBC Countryfile Live? It's not until August 2020, but you can get your tickets now in a nice festive envelope, so you have a gift to give on the big day. We're going to go next year to one of the Windsor days and I think it will be fabulous fun for all ages. It's only £12 at the moment to book as well, so you can't moan at that price!

At Castle Howard from 6-9th August and Windsor Great Park from 20 - 23rd August 2020, these will be days full of fun where this favourite show is bought to life with a dog lovers arena, live cooking demonstrations, getting back to nature with the National trust and meeting the Countryfile presenters at the Big Theatre. I can't wait!

2.  Nextbase Dash Cam £99
My son has been bugging me for ages to buy a dash cam for our car, and as one of the fastest growing areas of consumer technology it is no wonder why. Nextbase is the UK's leading dash came manufacturer and this model (the Nextbase Series 2- 322GW Dash Cam) is the world's first to have emergency SOS capabilities in the event of a nasty accident, alerting the emergency services to our whereabouts. 

It has 10x GPS making it the most accurate dash cam on the market and I particularly like the intelligent parking mode, which records any bumps or movements when the car is parked. You can also add a rear view camera to ensure your car is even safer. (#ad) Buy from Amazon now for just £94.95.

Friday, 6 December 2019

Reasons to be Cheerful - Panto, Christmas Trees & Sunrise

Good evening friends. How are you? I hope your week is going well, mine has been a odd one with some horrid downs. Nothing too major, before anyone worries unduly, but you know what it's like when you can't control what is going on around you and it all feels unfair and out of control? Yes, that!

I knew I had to dig deep and do a Reasons to be Cheerful post to remind me of all the wonderful things I have in my life and to let go of the stuff I can't control. I've decided I'll have a proper time away from anything online this weekend, to help me refocus and be in the moment with my family. We have some fab things planned - cinema, a Christmas tree festival and catching up with family and the kids God parents. 

Since I last posted for #R2BC, there is loads I am thankful for -

Being in the village panto - I really adored this and I am missing it already. I'll definitely get involved again next year and I am looking forward to our meal together in January. They are a great group of people and it has been wonderful getting to know them all more. 

Monday, 2 December 2019

My Experience of having a Hysteroscopy on the NHS

ceiling in a hospital
Photo by Vladimir Kudinov on Unsplash

I suspect if you have ended up here that you've been told you'll need a hysteroscopy, well firstly I want to reassure you that on the three occasions I've had one, I have found it a really easy procedure to undergo. Of course every person is different and we all experience things in our own way, so you'll make your own decisions when you have the procedure yourself, but for now, I'll share my perspective and experience.

What is a Hysteroscopy and why have one?

A hysteroscope is a long thing telescope with a light and camera that will be passed though your vagina and cervix to see inside the womb (uterus). The images are sent to a monitor so your nurse/ doctor can see inside your womb and record pictures of what they find.

You can have a hysteroscopy for a range of reasons, such as excessive bleeding, recurrent miscarriage, infertility, pelvic pain or unusual bleeding. Sometimes you also have one to actually treat a condition such as removing a displaced IUD (or embedded as mine was), or removal of small polyps or fibroids. On one occasion I also had one to take a small biopsy before I had an operation.

Each of my hysteroscopys have been as an out patient, so I just arrived at a set time and left after about 30/45 minutes.

How to prepare for the Hysteroscopy

  • Personally I have found that all I need to do in preparation is have a shower so I feel comfortable and clean
  • I make sure that I relax and don't get stressed before the procedure. I have definitely found, and my gynae nurse has told me too, that the more relaxed you are during the procedure the easier it is.
  • Wear loose and comfortable clothes, as you'll need to remove everything from the waist down and you don't want fiddly clothes holding you up.
  • My leaflet I was given advised that if you usually suffer with period cramping, it might be an idea to have a paracetamol or ibubrofen (whatever you normally take) to help with any cramping pains that you may experience
  • You can't have a hysteroscopy if you are pregnant so you need to be aware of that and be taking adequate precautions
  • Generally you do not have an anaesthetic before a hysteroscopy and thus you should eat and drink normally (some people may, everyone is different, but your healthcare professional will make sure you understand what is necessary for your circumstances)
  • You may wish to take a friend or relative with you if you are nervous or just wish for some company. I have always gone alone and felt happy with this. 

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Getting Serious about Weight Loss - Starting My Slim and Save Journey

{Post in collaboration with Slim & Save, I received gifted products. 
This post may also contain affiliate links - as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, any affiliate links will be marked with #ad}

My Journey so Far

Regular readers will know I have been very overweight for a long, long time. It really is the bane of my life but much of the time I seem powerless to do anything about it. I know that sounds a bit pathetic but we all have our demons to conquer and overeating is mine.

I went on my first diet when I was about 14 (if my memory serves me well). It was my doctor who put me on it and thinking back, I'm sure I was only about a size 10/12, so it seems outrageous to me now, that he thought it was OK to confirm my worries about my size and ask me to keep a food diary and then just half everything I ate. 

Over the years I have tried many, many diets. I tend to go for the more mainstream and less extreme diets in general. I know the general principle of eat less and move more, but truly I do love food and as much as anything, I know I am an emotional eater and I love the comfort of food, and that's not healthy for me.

I'm now at the heaviest I have ever been, I am classed as morbidly obese and I can feel myself falling apart. I have around six different health/ pain issues that I am convinced would all benefit from me being between 2 - 8 stone lighter. So, no longer can I ignore my issues, I have to take steps to make a difference. 

Monday, 25 November 2019

Bannishing my Aging Dry Skin with Balneum #ItchLessLiveMore

Balneum products in wash bag
{This is a collaborative post}

As I age, I am realising more and more that I should have been looking after my skin better when I was younger. My skin is often tight, dry and itchy now, especially on my lower legs, upper arms and chest area. Of course, at the moment it is Autumn and we're at the best time of year for my skin as it isn't too warm and it isn't too cold, but already as the colder weather arrives, I am being reminded of the need to moisturise regularly.

Luckily Balneum got in touch a couple of months back and asked me to try out their dry skin and itch relief lotion, which I was happy to agree to. I was then over the moon when it wasn't just the lotion that arrived, but their cream, oleo wash and shampoo too. I have been using all the products for the last few weeks to give them a thorough trial, to see how they work on ageing skin and I also got my 16-year-old son to try them too as he has pretty bad psoriasis, and we are keen to minimise his need for steroid creams as much as we can.

Who are Balneum?
Balneum have created a specially formulated emollient and daily cleansing range for people with dry skin and for when itch relief is required. When used together the products become a complete emollient therapy for the skin and scalp that are dry, flaky, agitated or suffering with eczema or psoriasis. So, me with my dry skin and itchy and flaky scalp, and JJ with his all-over psoriasis are good candidates for putting these products through their paces.

Their slogan is Itch less, live more and that's great, as we're in an age now were no-one should have to be that uncomfortable with their skin that it starts to negatively impact on their life and activity choices.

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Christmas Gift Guide for Teen Girls - 10 Great Ideas

Teen girl gift guide header

{This post contains samples given to me for review and also affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchase, any affiliate links will be marked with #ad}

Teen girls can be tricky to buy for; I have two of them and they really are chalk and cheese, so it is clear to me that no one solution suits all of them. The thing that they do have in common is that they are like magpies and are attracted to pretty, shiny things in beautiful wrapping. 

My girls still badger me to do them a stocking each and apparently it is the best part of the Christmas presents but I am finding it gets more and more expensive as they get older, so you have to become creative and make sure your stocking is a realistic size!

e.l.f Make-up sets - From £6
My girls are going to be thrilled to receive these make-up sets. The prices are so reasonable with the pack of three lip balms and 3 eyeshadow duos both selling for just £6 each at Boots, and the Haute chocolate eyes shadow set is £12. Extra good is that they are all included in the Boots 3 for 2 gifting deal. The colours look really pigmented and totally on trend. 

Personalised Notebook from Norma and Dorothy - £22
This is a really stunning notebook that my Miss E will love using as her artists sketchpad as the pages are blank. It has a nice hardcover and is spiral bound, so it is easy to use and firm to lean on. The personalisation is in real gold foil and makes the book unique and special. There are loads of gorgeous personalised gifts on Norma & Dorothy and they all come beautifully packaged.

Monday, 18 November 2019

Who Knows what Tomorrow Holds - Planning for the Future

Family in the woods
Photo by Irina Murza on Unsplash

{Collaborative post}

Once you become a parent your whole perspective changes, or certainly mine did. Every new thing looks as if it holds danger and you worry constantly for your children. But worry isn't productive, so it is important to actually take some firm steps to ensure that your children are well looked after, safe, happy and financially secure if the worst should happen to you and your partner.

Here are a few ideas to get you started -

1.  Make sure you have a Will in place
2018 research from Which showed that 54% of adults in the UK do not have a will, this is an astounding figure. I daren't imagine what would happen if my husband and I both died and our estate had to be sorted out and there was no will. I want the kids and their guardians to easily have money available to them to start sorting out their plans and living arrangements for the future.

We chose to make mirror wills as our wishes were the same and it feels a cost effective way of doing things. Other couples prefer to make separate wills and allow provision for the things they care most about. For us, it was the kids we cared most about and thus mirror wills worked perfectly. For the sake of drawing up a document that took us under an hour and cost less than £150 it would be crazy to die intestate and leave our children and their guardians with those kind of problems.

Also, importantly, don't forget to tell your next of kin and executor where your will is kept!