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!

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Reasons to be Cheerful: Being a Freelancer, Flowers and Cheesecake

Hello friends, how are you today? I am feeling chipper as it is the first Saturday in forever that it hasn't rained! yay

It's been a really good week and I need to celebrate that with a Reasons to be Cheerful post. It's just going to be short and sweet, but sometimes they are the best ones -

I finished work, but I may still work for them....
You may have read that I wasn't loving the job I started 5.5 months ago. It's weird as I'd been yearning to get back into the work place for over five years and I absolutely love the company I had gone to work for. I even really liked the people I worked with, but due to the yearly cycle of the work it meant there would be a number of quieter months every year and that just isn't for me. I've been described as a machine before! I love to churn work out and get that sense of satisfaction.  Also the journey turned out to pretty awful some days, taking 90 minutes.
However it looks as if I'll be doing some freelance work still as they don't want to recruit to my job now. So I can work from home! yay

Realising how others see you
In the week I was leaving there was a couple of telling conversations that were really lovely to hear and ponder on. First a couple of colleagues were having a chat about 'get up and go' as in it means just that - to leave, but also it describes someone with energy, enthusiasm and initiative. Then one of my colleagues, said it was like me.

Also, the day I left they gave me some truly beautiful flowers and another colleague that they were bright and vibrant, like me.

Should you study A Level Law, if you want to take a Law Degree?

Photo by Giammarco Boscaro on Unsplash

{Collaborative Post}

I can hardly believe I have a 16-year-old son; time really does pass very quickly. We’ve just done the rounds of the local colleges for him to choose where he wants to go on to next and I realise we are very lucky as he made a decision quickly and feels sure of the courses he wants to do.

JJ has always been academic and the STEM subjects come easily to him, so it was no surprise when he put his application in for Maths, Further Maths, Computer Science and Law. We’re not sure if he’ll be taking three or four A levels as yet, this will be decided at his college interview in December.

I was keen for him to do four. I think it was just so I could be a proud mum, with a really bright son. However, when we did some investigating, it turns out that all the uni’s only look for results in three subjects, and they’d far rather the applicant had three seriously good results, than four OK ones. We then noticed that where Further Maths is taken the college normally advocate a fourth subject, so we’ll just see what the college says and take their advice, they have done this many more times than us.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Christmas Gifts for All the Family to Enjoy Together

Christmas Gift guide for all family header
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

{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}

It won't be long now friends! We have to get on board and admit that Christmas is fast approaching, I won't tell you that I am completely organised as yet but I am well on the way and the piles of presents hidden around my house are adding up!

As my children get older I find it is harder and harder to buy physical presents for them, often they want experiences, money, clothes or tech and that's OK, they are growing up so I have to respect their wishes. However, I miss the days when they were little and we would be able to enjoy their presents together, building LEGO, playing a board game or doing some craft.

Then a couple of weeks ago it occurred to me, why do things have to change? Last year I bought Risk and we all enjoyed paying it together, so this year doesn't need to be any different, I am going to invest in some gifts we can all enjoy together and then I get my favourite Christmas gift - all my family together.

Here are a few ideas for gifts all the family can enjoy together (if you have older kids like me) -

For the Home

ASDA personalised photo cushion - £26
My first idea was to make a generic one to go on the sofa, but then I knew that my Miss E would really love one with all her favourite cuddlies on it, so here it is with her Alfie teddy, my parents dog Archie and our cat Puss Puss. This will stay in the lounge and we can all enjoy it as it is big enough for two to share. I went for the XL cushion, which is 25" x 14.5" and retails at £26.00 with £4 postage (there is also a smaller size available too).

The cushion is really good quality, it is soft suede, plain beige on the back and printed on the front. There are loads of templates you can choose from for printing, to make it totally unique to your home and I found the process simple, and the delivery quick. I'll happily use ASDA photo again for personalised gifts and I see there is 10% of all personalised cushions until the end of this year too, which is a great deal!

Visit ASDA photo gifts over here.

Fun Family Christmas Traditions: Decorating the Christmas Tree

2018 Pannell family Christmas tree
{Collaborative post}

For me Christmas just doesn’t feel like Christmas unless our home is decorated in the right way. Tinsel, mistletoe, baubles and fairy-lights: they all add to the ambiance that makes the season. The centrepiece for all of these decorations, naturally, is formed by the tree. But decorating a tree isn’t just a destination; it’s a journey, too. If you want to get the whole family into the Christmas spirit, then drafting them all in to lend a hand is a great way to get started!

For many years when the kids were small we used to have two trees, as I loved to have a 'perfect' colour co-ordinated one in the lounge that I had decorated and then we would have a second one in the dining or play room. This one was the super colourful, sling everything on, including home made decorations tree. As the kids have aged though, I have realised that for me, it is far more important to have everyone involved with the ritual of decorating the tree than it is, for it to look perfect.

Let’s look at a few ways in which we can make the tree-decorating experience special for everyone -

Wearing Christmas Clothes

Any activity will feel that little bit more Christmassy if you’re wearing the right clothes. If you’re gifting Christmas jumpers, then you can save opening them until the big day itself. But there’s nothing stopping you from wearing last year’s jumpers. On the other hand, you might make the experience that little bit cosier by wearing your winter sleepwear. Matching pyjamas or onesies will make the whole family feel like the same cohesive unit!

Friday, 8 November 2019

What are you seeking?

As a woman in my twenties, it never occurred to me to analyse my life. To really look at aspects of it and see if I was happy with them, or if they were healthy. For me, becoming a Christian at 29 was what had set me on an introspective journey to find out who I am and what is right for me. I would say what makes me happy, but that doesn’t sit right with me, for I believe my life isn’t lived for my own gratification.

I have a purpose, a greater good that I’m supposed to achieve during my life. It may not be what the world deems as bold, exciting or successful. I don’t have to become famous, make a million, or be stunningly beautiful. Society’s expectations of success don’t really apply, and it is so good to remind myself of that fact. All that is expected of me, is that I try my hardest to follow Christ’s example, to be a good citizen, and to think about other people, as well as myself.

In fact, in the last few days I’ve been realising, yet again, (why do I forget these important messages and then have to learn them again?) that I need to prefer others to myself. That’s not about me having low self-esteem and believing other people are more important than me. Not at all. It is about me remembering that I’m here to serve, in so many ways.

I’ve truly found that when I take my focus off myself and put it onto others, I am a lot more fulfilled. When I keep analysing why I feel lonely, or why I’m so fat, or why my work doesn’t feel fulfilling, all I do is perpetuate those feelings. 

You know what they say, negative in, negative out!

It’s so important to think positive and to seek the good in people. Some may say I’m wearing rose tinted glasses, but that’s not true, as I still know the world is flawed and there are problems in both my life, and the wider world around me. I just need to make the purposeful choice (and no, it’s not always easy) to see the best. A lovely friend reminded me of this the other day, as my thinking the worst of a situation that involved her had resulted in me feeling hurt for the last year and because I hadn’t raised the subject with her, she had no idea, she just thought I was busy, rather than purposely staying away.

Communication really is key to everything in life. Being honest and open with God, those around you and importantly, yourself, makes a massive difference. It won’t always be easy, in fact sometimes it will feel like such hard work, but it will always pay off.

After my post the other day about loneliness and seeking a good local friend, I spent some more time in prayer and contemplation, trying to decide what would make the difference to me right now. What did I come up with? I realised I need to stop thinking about myself and to do more for others. Not silly things like the kids washing or dropping them places, but more purposeful things like spending time with them doing an activity they enjoy, leaving the best parking space for someone else, or volunteering to do the crappy job at work, the one no-one enjoys.

I have far less time now than I used to, as I’m working more, but there is always time to do the little things, and many little things add up to be a big thing. The thing that takes me out of myself and helps me to focus on others and hopefully gives me that sense of purpose and satisfaction that I’m ultimately seeking.

But what about you, what are you seeking?

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

Thinking of Starting your own Blog? Check out my Top Tips for Success

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

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Have you ever thought about starting your very own blog? It’s hard work…but incredibly rewarding. You might not want your blog to be found and read by others, you might prefer it to be a private online diary, or maybe you have an opinion that you’re desperate to share, or you have some advice that you know others will find helpful. No matter what your motivation for starting a blog is, it’s a wonderful creative outlet that is ideal for personal growth and for building your confidence!

Starting a blog is a great idea, but have you wondered what you might need to make it a success? 

Check out my 4 top tips for blogging success below.

You need the right tools

Of course you’re going to need a laptop and access to the internet but having a good set of writing tools at your disposal will also help you through the blogging process. For example, if you’re referencing someone else’s work or maybe a newspaper article then help with citations and referencing will be a huge help. Scribbr provides apa citation guidelines and advice on their website. Investing in proofreading software, as well as a programme that will help you with spelling, grammar and clarity will also prove useful. It will also help you improve your work.

Find your niche

You don’t always have to have a niche to make your blog enjoyable, however having one will help you to gather a bit of a following and build on your blog subscribers. If you offer information on a range of different topics then some readers might dip in and out of your work rather than retuning week after week for a new insight on one specific topic that interests them. If you have a unique perspective of a particular topic or varying degrees of experiences and advice from it all, then by all means go for it! Parenting, minimal lifestyles, health and fitness, eco living, veganism, sport, travel – all are popular niches. Try to find yours!

HVAC Tips for Pet Owners

Puss Puss the cat adopted us last October
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Owning pets fills your home with so much joy. Unfortunately, it also can fill your house with lots of fur and dander. One aspect of pet ownership, which many owners don't consider, is the effect their pets have on their home's HVAC (Heating, ventiliation and air conditioning) system. If you are a pet owner, here's what you should be doing to take care of your HVAC system and keep it operating at its best.

Groom Regularly

Keeping your dog or cat groomed isn't just a great way to keep them clean and looking their best. A well-groomed animal causes less mess around the home. Regular brushing is highly effective at keeping your house from being overrun by fur. It removes the fur into the brush, where it can be easily disposed. This way, it doesn't get in your heating and cooling ducts and clog up the system.

Vacuum and Sweep

No matter how diligent you are with grooming it's likely that your pets will still shed in your house. By maintaining a consistent vacuuming or sweeping plan you remove the loose fur before it has a chance to get sucked into a vent where it clogs up your HVAC system.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

What to Do with Your Family in Kefalonia

Photo by George Hiles on Unsplash

{Collaborative post}

If you’re looking to book a winter sun holiday with your family - or looking into options for the Easter break, or even next year’s summer holiday - then you might have thought about going to Greece. The gorgeous weather and fantastic food are just two reasons that may persuade you to pick this country, but it has so much more to offer.

Kefalonia is one of the many great places to go. It’s the largest of the Ionian Islands in the west of Greece, and offers couples and families many things to do together. Here are some suggestions you may want to think about when booking your Grecian escape -

What to see

If you’re looking for a beach holiday in Greece, then you’ve come to the right place. Not only are there many white sandy spots to sit on, but the beautiful blue sea is a gorgeous, inviting enigma with plenty of surprises within. Myrtos, on the north-west coast of the Kefalonia, is considered to be one of the top 30 beaches in the world.

You don’t have to just sit on the beach, though, because there are many things you can do in the sea, or explore on the coast. If you or your children are interested in animals, then you could go to Argostoli Bay to see the wild loggerhead turtles lay their eggs, or even take a cruise on a glass-bottomed boat. There are many caves, lakes and other water-based activities you can discover as well.

Monday, 4 November 2019

A Well-Needed Break - Reasons to be Cheerful #R2BC

I am so thankful that we got to have a few days away last week during half-term. We've been lucky this year with a couple of short breaks to Yorkshire and then Kent, where we stayed in AirBnB's and they were both lovely, but what I have realised is that when we holiday in the UK we don't rest properly. We do things, we go places, I tidy the house etc etc

Last week we headed to Spain for just 4 nights and I wondered what it would be like. Would it feel as if we've only just arrived and then had to leave again?  But no, it was excellent and we all felt thoroughly relaxed by the end of it.

We stayed at the airport the night before and had an early flight, so we were by the pool of our hotel by 10.30am and this gave us an extra full day. The hotel was fab and the rooms were ready by 1pm, so we could get unpacked and back down by the pool in no time at all!

I'd definitely recommend Salou for an October half term break as the temperature was between 21 and 25 degrees each day, and yes I picked up a bit of a tan and needed sun cream! The only downside is that the swimming pools in the hotels are not heated and as such are cold, no scrap that, they are truly freezing!

By the last day both my girls got brave and spent a few hours in the pool, it was lovely to see them having fun with some lovely girls they met.

It was a very low-key holiday, with a bus trip into the neighbouring resort, lots of long walks, coffees out, finding the local cats, games of cards, time spent chatting, reading and enjoying a cheeky Baileys each night.

It was also Salou Independence day whilst we were there and my hubby went to see the night parade with pyrotechnics and the girls and I joined him the next day to see the day parade, with bands, massive puppets, a giant eel and a very scary canon!

I'm thinking this October half-term holiday could become a thing! It was so much cheaper than other times of the year, but next time I would have to find a heated pool!

Top Tips for Regulating Home Humidity

Image Credit: Trent Szmolnik on Unsplash
{This is a collaborative post}

Having high or low humidity levels in your home can cause significant trouble. Not only is living in a home with extreme humidity levels uncomfortable, but excessive moisture or dryness can also cause damage to your property. Here's what you need to know about regulating your home's humidity levels to keep them in a comfortable range.
Know Your Warning Signs
You can't adjust humidity levels in your home if you don't know if your humidity levels are off in the first place. The good news is you don't need any special tools to check for overly humid or dry air. You just need to know what to look for.
If static electricity levels are high or the paint on your walls is cracking, your home is likely too dry. If you're seeing condensation regularly on your windows or drinking glasses, or you're smelling musty odours, you likely have high humidity.
Handle Wet Clothing Well
One of the easiest ways to adjust humidity levels in a low-tech way is to adjust your treatment of wet clothes. Leaving wet or damp towels and clothing out causes natural moisture to enter the air. If your humidity is high and you've been leaving wet clothes in your hamper, simply doing laundry and putting them away clean and dry could solve a high humidity issue.
Perhaps you have the opposite problem: low humidity, or dry air. If that's the issue, after you take your clothes out of the washer, skip the dryer. You'll find you can raise your home's humidity using clean laundry. Lay laundry out on a line or rack to encourage evaporation of moisture into the air.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Looking After Me! #R2BC

HAPPINESS IS... // A morning at the spa on your own, totally chilling. ✨🏵️✨🏵️✨🏵️✨🏵️ . A week ago I cricked my neck and it's been so tight and painful. Then last night I was full of stress as I backed out of an unproductive situation. 🏵️✨🏵️✨🏵️✨🏵️✨ . Today, I've had a fabulous massage, the most divine Elemis facial and now I'm chilling on the hot stone relaxation beds. ✨🏵️✨🏵️✨🏵️✨🏵️ . Whenever I feel ready it will be a swim, steam and jacuzzi, followed by lunch. Then it's back to normality as I have work to do, ready to go to Spain at the weekend. 🏵️✨🏵️✨🏵️✨🏵️✨ . I'm feeling quite anxious about our trip though, for many reasons. So I'm trying to replace negative and anxious thoughts with positive ones. ✨🏵️✨🏵️✨🏵️✨🏵️ . Anyway I just thought I'd share this pic as I don't think this 46 year old looks too bad without any filters!
A post shared by Michelle Pannell (@michelletwinmum) on

I’ve been looking after myself recently and that why there’s not been many blog posts, or not ones that take emotional energy anyway. I haven’t felt like I’ve had much to say and now the kids are 12, 12 and 16 it’s so hard to share my parenting tales, as they (quite rightly) don't want their lives broadcast for all to read. Peer pressure and casual bullying are too rife sadly!

I made a choice a long time ago that I’d share the good, bad and ugly of my life as a way of connecting, helping others and showing that Christians are regular, flawed people too. Even this, now, has become more difficult as so much of my life involves my husband and I’ve never shared on his behalf. He’s a very private man and wouldn’t want his life ‘out’ there.

So blogging really does seem to be changing for me, it’s becoming less personal and more a way I earn money. Now, I’m trying to decide if I’m OK with that. Of course the money in the bank is very helpful, and not too difficult to earn, but do I want Mummy from the Heart to be a commercial entity?

I think, to be honest, it is the reality of where I am right now. I’ll still do personal posts when the moment takes me and I have something to say but I’m not going to beat myself up for earning a living and being able to pay for a holiday for our family.

As I sat in the day spa yesterday I was feeling proud of myself. Proud that I seem to have found that elusive balance that everyone seeks - I’m employed, I’m self-employed, I’m mum, I’m wife and I’m Michelle too. I’m getting time for things I enjoy and I’m not feeling run ragged.

Some of it is down to the kids being older, but much of it is down to my head being in the right place and being able to accept who people are and what their limitations are. As well as being able to reconcile that I cannot do everything. I just have to choose what is most important and focus on those things.

This update post will serve as my regular reasons to be cheerful post, where I share what is making me feel happy and grateful right now.

·         Time at the spa alone, I had a massage, facial, time on the hot stone relaxation beds, swim, steam and Jacuzzi. Pure bliss!
·         I’m loving being part of the village panto. I have just volunteered for the chorus this year and I’ve even backed out of one dance as my hurting foot won’t tolerate the moves, but I am loving the singing.
·         I’ve been spending time in the prayer centre to just be and wait on God, which is never time wasted.
·         We’ve joined a new church and I wake up each Sunday wanting to go and I come away inspired and wanting to do better. I haven’t had that for a while now, so it is so welcome.
·         I made a choice this week to walk away from a work situation that was upsetting me and I have cut all ties with the source of anxiety.
·         I’m not entirely satisfied with the job I started back in June, but it was good last week to be really honest with my manager and to make her aware that I wasn’t sure if it was the right job for me.  We’re working together to see where it goes.
·         I’ve been doing some boring but necessary jobs, like sorting out the thousands of photos I take. Many are of Ashburnham Place where I live and I use them for their social and promotional work. They are now all sorted into files of image type.
·         This week has been busy, every moment has been planned for, but even in that I am managing to swim twice this week and I’m not beating myself up for lack of gym visits. They’ll get back on track once I return from holiday.
·         And there is the last reason, we go off on holiday Saturday for a few days to Spain. I’m hoping for lots of relaxation, walks, swims, good food and book reading. JJ isn’t coming with us, he has the grandparents coming to stay and is looking after the cat, but he’ll enjoy that just as much. It will be strange without my boy though.

Now, over to you. How are you doing? I’d love to know, Mich xx

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