Thursday, 9 July 2020

Go Ape Treetop Challenge in a time of Social Distancing, Bedgebury, Kent

2 females on Go ape treetop challenge

It's my girls birthday next week and for quite some time they've been wanting to do the Go Ape Treetop Challenge. They've both completed the Treetop Adventure a few times and enjoyed it but as tall girls, they were ready for a new challenge. I have to admit, that I have never fancied going up into the treetops myself and had put off going as I assumed they needed an adult up there with them, what I now know is that if the child is under 13, they have to have an adult participating with them, but if they are 13 or over the adult can supervise from the ground. Perfect, I suspect we'll be going more often now I know that!

There used to be a minimum age for participation on the Treetop Challenge but now with new safety technology it is just a minimum height and any child can have a go (along with their supervising adult) as long as they are 1.4M (4FT 7”) or more.

The cost to do the Treetop Challenge is £25 for an under 18-year-old and £33 for 18 years plus. It's advised that the course will probably take around 2-3 hours. We arrived for a safety briefing at 9.45am, but it didn't start until closer to 10am by the time all participants had arrived and it probably went on until about 10.30am, because of the need to keep a distance from others.  We finished the course at 12.25pm, so that was just under two hours up in the air. It's great that there is no time limit and you can enjoy the course at a leisurely pace if you so wish.

3 females in the trees

Monday, 6 July 2020

First-Timers’ Guide to Visiting Italy in the Summer

Photo by Flo P on Unsplash
{This post is written in collaboration with Emily Jones}

Even though there is a lot of uncertainty due to COVID-19 right now, one can still plan and dream. It’s actually fun and refreshing to talk about going somewhere with your family, even if it may not be for a bit. One wonderful destination to go to is Italy, especially with kids. The food is incredible, the locals are friendly, the natural landscapes are stunning, there is so much history and culture here, and there is something for everyone.

So if you are looking to go to Italy for the first time, here’s your guide to visiting Italy in the summer!

Travel tips for Italy in the summer

Plan ahead
You know how important planning is to me and with so much to see and do in Italy, it is crucial to make a list of ‘must-see’ spots before you go. Especially when you are travelling as a family, you want to see the beautiful sites, visit some museums, and also experience life around the places you visit. Plus, while you are in Italy. you don’t want to be planning what next, you just want to make the most of your time there!

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Recommended Self-Catering Accommodation in the South of England

In the wake of this pandemic, many people are rejecting the idea of holidaying abroad this year and will be staying in the UK instead. Whilst many of us are keen to get away and to start feeling a bit more normal, there is still a certain level of caution and worry around being away from home and being around too many people. For that reason, booking self-catered accommodation could be a great option.

Here are some recommendations of places we have stayed, in the south of England, and have really enjoyed, thus being happy to recommend them -

East Sussex - Blue Doors Cottage, Ashburnham Place, Battle

This comfortable cottage sleeps 5 adults easily, has a large private back garden, allocated parking and good WiFi. Nestled in the woods at the 220 acre Ashburnham Place it is a great place to holiday. You can walk or cycle the extensive grounds and enjoy all that Ashburnham Place has to offer.  It's only 8 miles from Bexhill beach and the towns of Hastings and Eastbourne are around 30 minutes away.

Blue Doors Cottage, Ashburnham Place

Check out the Ashburnham Place website

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Enjoying the Parkland at National Trust Sheffield Park during Lockdown

Sheep at Sheffield Park

As lockdown started to ease in the UK the National Trust started to open up some of its larger estates for people to be able to enjoy the outdoor space whilst also observing social distancing. We headed over to Sheffield Park in East Sussex a few weeks back on a Wednesday afternoon, taking advantage of my husband being on furlough at that time.

Then, only the wider estate/ parkland was open, but now they have opened up the formal gardens too and you have to book online to be able to visit and ensure your parking space and entry. Tickets are being released each Friday for all their sites across the UK that are open and they are the only way you can gain access. You need to book at least the day before, but I'd recommend looking on a Friday as it gets super busy and sites are selling out quickly. I had to wait in the Eventbrite queue for about 40 minutes last week to get tickets for a different East Sussex site.

I wanted to share some photos from our time walking the 250 acres of parkland, as it is really beautiful and just perfect for families to get some fresh air. Dogs are welcome on short leads but you need to be mindful of the sheep and cattle that are in the fields you'll pass through. Normally the kids can enjoy the natural play trail but it's closed at the moment.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Bridging the Learning Gap with MyTutor

16 year old boy doing online tutoring session

{This is a collaborative post}

What a funny old year this is turning out to be, and of course, I mean funny, weird as adverse to funny and making me laugh. The children have now been home since mid-March and the girls are slowly (but hopefully) surely badgering away with their school work via the online system. I've been quite impressed with their school, who keep setting work and checking in with them to ensure they are OK.

It's a bit of a different story for JJ, my 16-year-old though. He should have just been finishing his GCSE examinations, but of course, they have been cancelled. So, in reality, he hasn't done any schooling for about three months and he still has another three months until college starts in September (hopefully!). He is the kind of lad who has a thirst for learning, so he'll often watch educational programs and listen to podcasts just for enjoyment and that's reassuring for me.

Thankfully he is a really bright boy, so I'm not too worried but had he have been a different kind of kid, I'm sure I would be much more concerned. Six months without any formal learning is a long time to go and that's why I was so pleased to let him have some online tutoring with MyTutor. He'll be studying Maths and Further Maths at A-level, along with Computer Science and Law, and realistically maths is a skill that needs continual input and practise to keep your skill level up.

When I first chatted to JJ about doing some online tutoring, he really wasn't interested. He didn't think it would be interesting and he said he probably wouldn't like the tutor. Nothing like having an open mind, right? However, I'm pleased to say that he is loving it and asked me for more sessions.

Read on to check out mine and his full review of our start to end experience with MyTutor.

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Lockdown Crafting with my Daughter - Enjoying New Projects

Miss E is my arty daughter. She loves painting, making things and generally being creative. Give her a sewing machine and some fabric and off she'll go and create something, maybe a new pillow for her bedroom or clothes for Alfie, her favourite teddy. I'm highly impressed with her skills and her imagination, she has that creative eye that can just visualise how beautiful a project will look when it is finished.

I also enjoy being crafty, but I wouldn't say I'm a natural. It takes effort to hone my creative skills. I love making cards and know I make some lovely ones to send to friends and family, but I have a set way of making them that works for me. A few years back Miss E and I really enjoyed our Eurocamp holiday at Club Farret, as they had an inclusive crafting room where we could paint, mosaic, silk dye, sculpt and so much more.

My Mum is amazing at knitting and crochet; all through my childhood, she'd make wonderful clothes and such. I think this was what has prompted me to pick up a tapestry, as this felt like something beautiful I could make, without it being too difficult. Over the years I've created a few stunning tapestries but in the last five or so years, I've got out of the habit and truthfully, blogging and being on the PC has taken over most of my time.

Friday, 12 June 2020

Reasons to be Cheerful - Dentists, Walking and Embroidery

Where does the time go friends? How did it end up being Friday evening already? I remembered yesterday morning that it was Thursday and I should write a reasons to be cheerful post but then time has escaped me. I do find that the kids being home totally sucks my time away, but I'm trying to remind myself not to moan about that as they won't be around and be of an age where they want to be with me forever!

Despite the miserable weather June has been a good month so far and we've been making sure we have some family time together out and about. Here are just a few of the things that have been making me grateful -

*    I've been taking part in some FitBit challenges to help me move more and they have been fun.

*    I've been taking lots of walks around my home and some of the grass is being let go to meadow, it is so pretty!

*    Miss E and I have both enjoyed taking up a new craft project each, I am trying embroidery and she is doing chunky cross stitch.

Choosing your Childcare with

{This is a collaborative post}

Ensuring that your children are well looked after is one of the biggest worries for working parents. I remember when I was pregnant with JJ nearly 17 years ago and I was all set to go back to my high-flying career, where I worked crazy long hours and commuted 30 miles each way. Then came the reality of him being born and looking at childcare options that would suit our family, and it really wasn't easy finding the right option that would allow me to commute, work late and have some flexibility.


How I wish the website has been around then, to help me see clearly that there were more options open to me than I realised. It is such a great resource that over 2 million people have used since it was set up in 2009, and I find it reassuring that it has been around for over a decade now, so I know that it is reputable. is the UK's largest online community of parents, childcare providers, household helpers, schools and private tutors. You can use the website to find all forms of childcare - babysitters, registered childminders, nannies, private tutors and nurseries.

I did a quick search on my old address to see what options would be open to me if I was now seeking to get JJ looked after and I was astounded to see there are 535 childcare options with a 5-mile radius of my address in Hertfordshire. In truth, this could feel a little daunting, so I was glad to see that I could filter the results to show the aspects important to me, such as those with a DBS certificate or first aid training, or perhaps those who have experience with children with special needs, are purely male or female carers and more. There are lots of options, which is great.

Saturday, 6 June 2020

Waking up to Racism and White Privilege

Black girl with a Black Lives Matter sign
Original source unknown

Yes, I am one of those white people who would say I am not racist. I don't believe I have ever treated someone less favourably on the basis of their skin colour and therefore how does racism apply to me? However, what I have been realising over the last week is that I haven't really considered racism too much. I haven't had to in my life, it hasn't been a feature and I now know that amounts to white privilege.

I'll be honest, I didn't realise racism was an issue that I needed to make my business. If I wasn't oppressing black people, holding them back or being derogatory and hurtful, then why did I need to think about racism, or champion the rights of BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) people?

My husband and I are both inclusive and happy to be around, work with, befriend and live with people from other races and those who have a skin colour different to our own. I've led inclusivity and diversity training quite a number of times in my past job role and I'd have considered myself abreast or many discrimination issues. I'm a HR Manager by trade and this means I have to be aware of and encouraging inclusivity. I have no problem with positive action, and I've employed people on the basis that our workforce was not an accurate representation of the community we served.

However, I now see how narrow my tunnel of vision has been for most of my life. Just because I wasn't treating people differently, it doesn't mean that the system wasn't. Yes, I've heard statistics of how BAME people are less likely to rise up the ranks in employment or have access to higher education, but I didn't really get why.

Monday, 1 June 2020

Visit to Sissinghurst Castle Garden, National Trust, Kent

Sissinghurst Castle Garden Header

I seriously can not wait for the lockdown to be over and we can all start to get out more and visit great National Trust places again. I know that things will be different, numbers will be limited, distancing will be enforced etc for quite some time but I'm happy to book and wait my turn to visit some amazing places once again. 

Literally just before lockdown started we had the pleasure of visiting Sissinghurst Castle Garden at Cranbrook in Kent, this is under an hour from where we live and we had an enjoyable few hours there with Miss E, one Sunday afternoon.

Sissinghurst has a very long history, and the Tudor buildings were used as a prison back in the 18th century as well as being a private family residence, then in the 19th century, it became a poor house with around 100 men living and working there before it went back to the Cornwallis family. In 1930 the house was sold to Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson who lived there until Vita's death in 1962 when Harold gave the property to the National Trust.

In the time they lived there, they cultivated the now world-famous gardens that you can stroll around and enjoy. 

Sissinghurst Castle Garden Tower

It's fun to take a walk up the spiral staircase in the tower (78 steps) to see were Vita used to work, writing novels, poems and letters. There are great views from the top and I felt very safe up there, as the walls are high enough. 

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Reasons to be Cheerful - Beach Walks, Relaxation and Cocktails!

Another week in lockdown is down, time really does seem to be going fast and I am loving that things have been relaxed a bit and we can get out as a family and take some walks.

Life is still generally really good and I am feeling super thankful. We should have been away on holiday in Devon right now, which would have been amazing with this great weather, but we're doing OK here at home too. 

If I could have one wish now, it would be that the girls would knuckle down and do their schoolwork better, but I can't have everything I suppose!

Here are just a few of the things I have been really thankful for in the last couple of weeks.

  • Having my pre-op for my next TCRE operation, I'm just waiting for a date for the actual operation now
  • Some good blogging work coming in and getting that all completed
  • My SEISS grant being paid from the Government
  • Chilled time out in the courtyard outside my home, enjoying a nice cool drink in the evening, reading, chilling and often having the cat keep me company. 

Monday, 25 May 2020

Creating Perfect Pins with Custom Fonts in Canva Pro

Making pins header

{This is a collaborative post}

Never did I think I'd be writing a post about how you can create stylish graphics and pins to drive traffic to your website, but what I've discovered in the last couple of weeks is that using custom fonts is super easy and it doesn't have to be expensive.

Font Bundles offer loads of free fonts for you to easily download and use, whether that is just in your word processing or publishing package, or in a design one. I'm not a clever designer type, I don't have Adobe Illustrator or CorelDRAW. I'm just a regular blogger trying to do her best without these kinds of skills and until recently I thought that excluded me from using custom fonts but how wrong I was, because you can import them into Canva Pro, and that is really accessible and not expensive.

It is definitely worth checking out Font Bundles as they have loads of free fonts, as well as a premium one free for the week, each week. Then, of course, there are thousands of others that you can purchase if they suit your needs better and once you've downloaded them, they are yours forever! Why not look at some of the different ones, like tattoo font, seasonal fonts, script fonts and graffiti.

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Making Magical Memories with Moonpig

What a fabulous evening I had Thursday and I didn't even have to leave my dining room. Thanks to the UK lockdown Moonpig had the inspired idea to run a virtual blogger event by zoom. This was particularly great for me, as I no longer attend many events having moved to the South Coast some years back, so this allowed me to be involved, see some familiar faces and have some fun experiences during the three-hour event.

What I discovered is that Moonpig has a super easy to use app for making personalised cards and choosing gifts and flowers to be sent with them. The app currently has the most features on iOS but they are working hard to include the extra features on Android. I have to admit that I'm not much of an app person, I prefer to log-on online but I may just be converted and this app does make it so quick and simple to order, and of course, there are times when we all need a card to be sent in an instant as we've forgotten, or nearly forgotten a special date.

I've enjoyed making a couple of cards for upcoming occasions and found it easy and quick to do. I can't show you them as they are being made and will be sent directly to the recipient.

Great Moonpig app features -

  • Over 10.500 card designs for all occasions
  • You can personalise the front of many cards with either/ or photos and words, or choose from a selection of ready to use cards that are being added to daily.
  • You can adjust the font, sizing, alignment etc of your personalised greeting inside the card
  • If you can't think what to say in the card, there is an inspiration feature within the app, that you can use 'as is' or adjust to what you want to say
  • You can add a handwritten note or doodle to your card (in the iOS version)
  • You can send the card direct to the recipient, or back to you and then you get an extra envelope, so when you send it, it is brand new
  • You can choose the date the greetings card is posted
  • You can add a note to the envelope
  • You can set reminders in the app, so you never miss a special occasion. It is quick and easy to do manually, or with iOS you can sync to your calendar and import the dates
  • There are eCards, regular-sized cards and giant ones you can send, and if you're not sure how big they'll look, you can try out the AR feature on iOS and see your chosen card standing in your environment where you are 

Friday, 22 May 2020

Making your Health a Priority as a Middle-aged Woman

womens middle-aged health check header with flowers

{This is a collaborative post}

Lockdown has given many of us a great excuse to pause and a lot of time to look at our lives and assess whether we are satisfied with them. I'm lucky that I'm happy with so much of my life as I've spent the last six or seven years spending time in prayer and reflection to ensure I am using my time as I feel God wants me to.

What this period has done for me is to make me reflect on my overall health again and realise that change must happen. I'm not happy being so overweight and it's about more than just how I look. Being 46 and having all this excess weight is causing me to have many other issues, such as carpal tunnel in my hands, unexplained pain in the ball of my foot, asthma, menorrhagia (excessive menstrual bleeding) and serious calf pain when I exercise.

So, I'm making changes and figured I'd share them as every middle-aged woman (I hate writing that, have I really reached that stage already?) should be looking after her whole health.

Eat Realistically

Your metabolism slows with age, from 30 onwards it will slow a little each year and this means you can't eat like you did in your twenties. I have to admit, that I am very late to realise this and sadly the pounds (stones!) have crept on over the years. So now it is time to go back to the 'healthy plate' way of eating and to make sure I have a good variety of foods, over three meals with a couple of small, healthy snacks in between and no evening snacking.

Move More

It really is pretty simple, the pounds tend to pile on as you get older and we generally move less, so change that. I have started to do an exercise DVD for 30 minutes as soon as I get up 5 or 6 days a week and that will help my muscles start to tone up and increase my metabolism, so exercise is a winner on two fronts. I've also started to wear a Fitbit again and join in with challenges with friends to motivate me to move more and get the steps in each day.

Monday, 18 May 2020

6 Great Walks for Social Distancing in East Sussex

East Sussex walks header

Thank the Lord for a change in what we're allowed to do in the UK during this pandemic. I know that some people are not happy that lockdown has lightened and don't want to be heading out for walks, and that is OK, we are all different. It is your prerogative to choose what is right for your family. I'm happy for my family to go out together and enjoy the great outdoors and keep a 2-metre distance between us and other families, or if necessary to quickly pass each other on a path.

There seems to be agreement from the scientists that the risk of contracting the coronavirus in the great outdoors is far less than indoors, and it is certainly more fun to be to in the sun taking some exercise than it is to head into a supermarket.

We've decided to stay fairly local to home when we head out for a trip, as there doesn't seem any need to start travelling massive long distances when there are great places on our doorstep, and if everyone did this there would be far fewer worries about areas becoming inundated with visitors from afar.

Here are our recommendations for six walks you can take in East Sussex and enjoy the great outdoors, whilst also being sensible and applying the rules of social distancing.

1.   Seven Sisters Cliffs and Country Park (near Eastbourne - BN20 0AB)

This week I dropped my husband and children at Birling Gap (the National Trust car park is open and charging, but the toilets and cafe area closed) so they could take the 4-mile walk across the cliffs. The seven sisters are seven cliffs that elevate up and down, so this can be a bit of a challenging walk, but it is well worth it when you get to the Cuckmere valley and you can walk to either the beach or through the meandering river and up to the car park where I had parked to collect them.

A word of warning if you're new to this area, the cliffs are made of chalk and prone to crumble, so please stay away from the edge as they can be super dangerous and no photo is worth your life.

Brass Point on Seven Sisters cliffs
Thanks to my husband for this image

Friday, 15 May 2020

Reasons to be Cheerful - Lockdown Continues

Morning friends, I'm pleased to see the sun has come out again and the rain us due to stay away, so that makes me smile a lot.

I'm just going to launch straight into my reasons to be cheerful this week and I'm going to have to be a bit, Pollyanna, on a couple of items too, as it hasn't been the most dynamic of weeks.

1.   Loving my mornings - the rest of my family are not morning people and this suits me just fine as I get some alone time. I'm enjoying waking about 8am (which feels like a lie-in) doing my exercise DVD, then having some breakfast and a cuppa, tidying the kitchen and putting the dishwasher and washing machine on and then having a shower and getting ready. There is definitely joy for me in routine. As I do these things I tend to watch/ listen to a devotional and then enjoy my latest boxset, it is The Rookie and then I have some good recommendations for future series.

2.   Walking with Miss E - I had a fab walk around the grounds of our home the other day, just chatting away to Miss E. It is so good when your teens (or near teen in this case) want to chat with you.

Monday, 11 May 2020

Learning to Forgive - Freeing Yourself from Resentment and Bitterness

Beautiul gates and spring flowers

As a Christian it is important that I spend time reading, praying and working through my issues to try and help myself become more like Jesus. It's a really high bar to meet and I suspect I'll never get there, but that won't stop me trying.

It's been 18 years now since I found my faith and it is amazing, an absolute miracle to me, how much I have changed. I know that people who knew me as a teenager or in my twenties would be surprised by the person I have become, but I hope the surprise would be a good one. I know that my character is far improved from the angry, aggressive, prideful and competitive person I was.

I'm not without issues though. Oh no, not by a long shot and I still find myself going back to unhealthy and sinful behaviours. The biggest one for me being, overeating and turning to food for fulfilment, rather than to Jesus. Of course, I've known I need to work on this and I have been trying for many years, but I find it so difficult.

I haven't really been able to understand why I couldn't conquer this harmful addiction to overeating and to be honest it would take hours to detail here all my musings on this topic from the last couple of decades.  I have been aware that I am holding on to the fat and that it is me, who is not wanting to let it go, almost as if it is a protective layer, a shield against what I might need to face if I dare to become slimmer.

I know this will sound crazy to some of you reading this and that's OK. I think you need to have gone through similar to understand the situation. But, finally, through reading, praying and a lot of talking with a wonderful lady who listens to me witter on and challenges my thinking, I feel I am ready. Ready to invest in me, to shed the protective layer and to move forward, without any barriers and I wanted to share with you what I felt the key was that has helped me unlock this desire to change and to progress,

It is forgiveness. Being willing and able to look back on my past and to examine all the people and situations that I need to work through and forgive. This also includes forgiving myself. Over the last five years or so I've worked hard in this area and I have come to realise that forgiveness is not a one-time thing. It could be that I have to forgive some people every day for the rest of my life.

"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgive you" Ephesians 4:32

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Staying Home - Reasons to be Cheerful

Two baby goslings born this week

Staying home is definitely starting to feel like the new normal. I'm suspecting we have a few more weeks of this yet and then at least a year of getting used to a strange new normal again, where we can't meet in big groups and don't go out anywhere near as much as we used to.

Thankfully I have a beautiful home in an amazing place and this is making staying home a lot easier for us. I still have lots to do and plenty of space to move about it. Here are the things that have been making me feel extra cheerful in the last couple of weeks -

1)   Finding my enthusiasm for exercise again with Leslie Sansone Walk at Home DVD's and I've got myself a new Fitbit to keep track of my steps. I'm enjoying starting each day with a 35 minutes 2-mile walk aerobics session and this gets about 3500 steps on the clock to start the day. It's so much easier to do the exercise when you do it first thing!

Saturday, 2 May 2020

Creating a Coronavirus Survival Kit - Kindness Gift

Coronavirus survival kit header

During this very strange time, there have been a number of friends and family that I have been concerned about, either because they live alone, or I know they thrive on physical contact with people. So I wanted to do something small to let them know they were in my thoughts and that this time would pass and we could all be together again. 

I've made little fun, novelty survival kit gifts before, I shared one on here for a Christian Parents survival kit and I've made them before for mums, sisters, friends, teachers etc. You can adjust the items that go in the kit to suit the recipient and their relationship to you.

This time I made survival kits for some people who are normally here at the conference centre where we live, for my mum and for my aunt (but from my mum). They mostly had the same items in them. Here is a picture of what I included.

Survival kit contents

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

20 Educational (and Great) Films for Teens to Watch during Lockdown

20 movies header

Lockdown is lasting us a fair while and I think it is safe to say that life will not go back to normal for many months yet, so I think we'll still be having our kids home with us for long periods of time to come. If your tweens and teens are anything like mine they are happily watching a lot of TV, with box sets being high up on their hit list.

I don't mind the kids watching TV at all, but it is nice to sometimes direct their attention towards something that is educational as well as being really enjoyable to watch. Here I have collated together a list of films that I have loved over the years and all of them have great lessons to teach - whether they are about life lessons, morals or maybe just giving an insight to our history.

These all offer guilt-free screen time and (I feel) could count towards their education -

Rating PG

1.   Dead Poets Society (1989)
Run Time:  140 Minutes
Themes:  Live life to the full, challenge the norm

When an inspirational and unorthodox teacher joins the staff of the elite all-male prep school, Welton Academy the students are inspired to be different and to break away from the norm. It's amazing to see the young men realise that can break from tradition and make their own choices. Rebellion isn't always a bad thing, especially not when it allows you to seize the day!

2.   Soul Surfer (2011)
Run Time: 106 Minutes
Themes:  Perseverance, overcoming adversity, hard work

The true story of Bethany Hamilton, who was a champion teenage surfer, when a shark attack took her arm. Her faith and the support of her friends and family help her to surf again and go on to be a professional surfer.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Looking for Reasons to be Cheerful in Lockdown

Wild garlic on JJ and my walk earlier this week

It's the end of another week and yes, like everyone else, they are all merging into each other. We're coming into our seventh week of being home as a family now as the kids came out of school early as my hubby had a cough and we were recommended to isolate. I can hardly believe they have been home learning for that amount of time. I think we are finally finding a bit of a rhythm and the girls are getting on with their work, which in turn allows me time to do mine.

I must say I felt quite normal last night. I headed to Lidl to get a bit of shopping and there were very few people there and it didn't even feel like we were purposely distancing (but we were) and then I picked up an Indian takeaway for us all and came back and enjoyed it with Saturday night TV. It was blissful to take the 20-minute drive in the early evening sun.

Today I am doing my normal Sunday routine with an online church service, a roast dinner and then probably a walk with my JJ this afternoon. Perhaps exploring a new part of our local area. but this is becoming harder as we have to keep walking further and further out. If only we could drive somewhere!

It's not been a bad week here, how can it be when the sun is shining and we have so much space? The girls have been swimming in the lake, playing ball and creating environmental art. We've had a BBQ, outdoor worship around a fire and some great food.

Friday, 24 April 2020

Send a little Love with Design Bundles

Rainbow unicorn bundle from Design Bundles

{This is a collaborative post}

It's not anywhere near as easy to be in touch with our friends and loved ones right now. Yes, we have technology and that, of course, is an absolute blessing as we can still see each other and connect, but nothing beats being face-to-face and being able to have a hug and clearly hear their voice.

For people like my husband's grandma, who is 96 there is no option for video calling as she doesn't have any gadgets and she doesn't understand the technology even. So I have been sending her letters, jigsaw puzzles, books and other care packages to help things feel a little brighter and for her to know that we are still thinking of her between the phone calls. It's at times like this when I really feel the difficulty of living over a hundred miles from both our families. I would just love to be able to nip around and leave some groceries on her doorstep, or to have a cuppa in her garden as she sits inside, as per social distancing.

It brings me a lot of joy to create things that I think will speak to the person they are intended for. I wouldn't say I have a natural talent for craft but I think I can create some nice cards from fairly basic materials. My go-to approach is to use card blanks, along with coloured card, printed papers and toppers to create a layered approach. I also like to add some washi tape and things like stick-on diamontes/ pearl beads.

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Seven ways to Create a Low-Maintenance Garden

garden with artifical grass
Image Source: Grass Direct Facebook
{This is a collaborative post}

Outside space is an absolute blessing. Most of us love to sit out as the sun goes down and enjoy a glass of something delicious (Baileys in my case), or read our book on a sun lounger, or perhaps watch the kids as they play happily in the playhouse. However, gardens can become a real chore and cause many headaches.

Not everyone is naturally green-fingered or has the time or inclination to spend hours in the garden keeping it looking nice, and let's be honest who wants to sit out if the space just looks like some wasteland? If gardening isn't your thing but you do want to enjoy the outdoors, then read on to see my tips for creating a low-maintenance garden that will look fabulous and leave you with all your free time to do the things you really love. 

1.  Go for artificial grass
I remember the first time I realised you could have artificial grass in your garden, it was a game-changer for me. I was at a party at a new friends house with all our two-year-olds and they were happily playing in the garden without picking up grass and dirt and putting it in their mouths. I remember saying to Lisa, how much I loved it and she said there was no going back once you'd had artificial grass. As the maintenance is easy with just a weekly hose down, you also don't ever have to worry about muddy footprints again and your grass stays green the whole year-round. It's a winner!

Artificial grass

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Keeping your Teenager busy during Lockdown - Over 50 Ideas

3 Teens whittling wood

It looks like lockdown will go on for another few weeks yet and who knows when school will recommence. I've been gentle with my 16-year-old JJ for the last few weeks, he has had some leeway to play games online, chat to his mates and just sleep (Isn't that what teens do best?) but now I need to get tough and get him doing some different things.

He'd have me believe that because he doesn't have to take his GCSEs I should allow him to wallow in his bedroom for the next five months, but that can't be good for him, so I revisited the posts I'd already written about getting your teen off their screen/ tech (you can check them out here and here) and enlisted my girls to think about all the different tasks we could get JJ involved in.

These are things all teens (or maybe even tweens and twenties too) could do and will hopefully either enjoy, learn something new or get a sense of satisfaction from. I suspect many of them will get an eye roll and the declaration of 'lame' but still, I'm on a mission to get JJ doing some different things.

I'll start with the activities I have already managed to get him to do during this lockdown -

  1. Go for a walk and chat to whoever you're with. Try a new route and discover your neighbourhood
  2. Play outdoor games with the family - frisbee, football, handball
  3. Teach your siblings to whittle wood and make skewers for toasting marshmallows, or create a carved walking stick
  4. Light a firepit or small campfire and toast marshmallow, or make easy dough to cook on a stick
  5. Play board and card games. Favourites recently have been Catan, Azul and Ticket to Ride
  6. Watch a film with the family
  7. Watch a theatre show with the family (The show must go on is showing an Andrew Lloyd Webber one each weekend)
  8. Cook us all dinner, or lunch, or yummy waffles
  9. Bake some treats - we've had courgette and cheese muffins, Easter chocolate cake and fruit and nut flapjack so far
  10. Do housework - Empty and refill the dishwasher, hand-wash the pots, change his bed, hoover and dust his room. Of course, none of these are particularly exciting but I find he'll do them fine if we work alongside each other and chat as we go
  11. Do the recycling
  12. Hoover, wash and polish the car. Ours looks great now and we have no-where to go! lol
  13. Do an M.O.T on the family computers to check they are running optimally and free up space
  14. Sign up for the daily newsletter from TEDed, so he has good content dropping into his inbox that will inform and engage him each day
  15. Create a family music playlist. We enjoy him playing random songs and the rest of us have to be quickest to guess the song title and the artist. This was something we used to do in the car, now it is home-based. 

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Practising Self-Compassion as Coronavirus Realisation Sets In

Beautiful view to an orangery and church

We're now into our fourth week of lockdown here in the UK and I think the realisation of this situation has hit home with mostly everyone. Daily life has dramatically changed and as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago I am hopeful for some good to come from this awful time, but honestly, there will also be a whole load of crap too. People are dying, businesses are folding, many won't have a job to go back to and I won't even pretend to understand what is going to happen to our economy, but of course, the dreaded recession word is being used, and that is never good.

As I sat having lunch today I realised that we are all going through a trauma and I don't think we are giving ourselves the space or time to really process what is going on. If you're anything like me then you have gone into auto-pilot, trying to help everyone else in the family feel OK about what is happening. I'm organising, shopping, cleaning, sorting, playing, teaching, cooking, washing, listening, chatting etc etc, What I'm not doing is taking time to think through how all these changes impact me.

I realised a couple of weeks ago that something was wrong as I kept wanting to buy hand sanitiser even though I didn't need it, it was almost as if I thought it might get me through this tough time. It was super irrational but the mind plays tricks on us when it feels overloaded. I also recognised that I wasn't getting much done in a day, I felt busier than before the lockdown and how could that be as my work has dried up and I didn't have to go anywhere?

"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:32

We're not machines and the sooner we realise that the better, the enormity of this situation we all find ourselves in, will have a different impact on every one of us. It's difficult, it's hard to process and it is humungous. There is so much uncertainty right now, it's no wonder that we feel a bit off-kilter.

We know that kindness and withholding judgement are essential at the moment. We do not know what is going on in someone else's life and it is not for us to say if it is OK for them to walk their dog four times a day, or to go for a drive in the hills. But we also have to remember that the kindness needs to be extended to ourselves as well.

It's almost Graduation Time - Planning your Senior Invitations

Photo by Logan Isbell on Unsplash
{This is a collaborative post}

Graduation is an important and exciting time for every young person. It is the time when you come together with all your friends and classmates to celebrate the hard work you have put in and (hopefully) the great results you leave with. You invite your close family to watch as you stand before them and proudly accept your certificate and shake the principles hand.

I've graduated three times here in the UK, the first from my Higher National Diploma, age 20, the second from my Ba degree conversion at age 21 and most recently from my Masters in 2007 at the age of 34. Each of these has been very proud days for me and I've been able to share them with my close family, as well as partying with my friends afterwards.

In the USA young people graduate from High School at around age 18 and this is the same age our young people leave college but there is no celebration or farewell for that stage here in the UK. My JJ is just finishing school now at age 16 and he should have a prom in June, but of course, coronavirus is making it unlikely that will happen. I think this is really sad for all the young people who have worked so hard and now cannot take their exams, nor attend prom to celebrate their successes.

For this reason, I was stoked to discover Basic Invite, a company that offers every type of invitation and announcement card you could possibly need and in so many stunning designs. Senior invitations are exactly what I need for JJ, as I can send these to friends and family far and wide to shout out how proud I am that he had graduated from school and will be starting college in the fall.

Friday, 10 April 2020

Reasons to be Cheerful - Lockdown Edition 2

French onion soup cooking in the pot and cooking dough on sticks

This lockdown lark really is a funny old thing. I feel busier than in my regular days and all I seem to hear is 'Mum'....  but I will be forever grateful that I have people who call me Mum and I get to spend time with them during this craziness.

As you know, we are super lucky with where we live and I, therefore, can not moan too much. The weather has been brilliant and we have been all over the site, walking, playing, having cook-outs, swinging, bike riding and in the paddling pool too. We also heard yesterday we can swim in the lake if we want to.  I totally will NOT want to, but I suspect my girls might. (For anyone not in the know, we live in the 220 acre grounds of my husbands work and this means we have a whole private estate to enjoy at this time. We're not being naughty and going out!)

We put the paddling pool up today and the gazebo will go up tomorrow, so we can eat outside. I am really enjoying being outdoors a lot and have managed to clear out loads of garden toys and have a good tidy.

Sunday, 5 April 2020

What will the Legacies of Coronavirus be? I'm hopeful...

Cherry blossom buds close up
Spring - a time of new life

We are of course going through a major crisis right now. Wherever you live in the world, the new Covid-19 coronavirus will be having an impact on you. We are forever hearing people tell us this situation is unprecedented and of course that is because it is. The last time there was anything that impacted the world in these kinds of ways, it was the second world war.

I don't think any of us would have wanted this situation to happen, but now it has, I am wondering about what the legacies will be that come from this time when most of the world locked down and stopped their citizens freely roaming the streets.

History has shown us that things change after times of crisis, we can thank Boots (the Chemist) during the great depression for the introduction of the two-day weekend, and of course, women working in factories and taking over roles traditionally held by men during WWII, continued long after the war had ended.

Each day I avidly watch the news to see what the current status is, how many more lives have been lost to this awful virus and what other hardships are emerging as we isolate more and more. Despite the economic difficulties and the loss of lives, I can't help looking to the flip side and hoping there will be positives for the future. I pray that in the long-term we will be seeing a lot of good coming from this time too.

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Reasons to be Cheerful during Lockdown

I feel a little guilty writing this post, as my experience of lockdown and having self-isolated is quite different to most peoples. As most of you know we live in the grounds of the conference centre where my husband works, and whilst normally we yearn for a little private space, during this lockdown we are super grateful for a closed front gate and 220 acres to roam free in.

Thankfully the time we self-isolated went quickly and no-one developed any symptoms but of course, we have no idea if this is because we've already had the virus, which seems to be the thinking at the moment, that around half of the UK population might already have had it and not even realised. It will be pretty cool if this is the case.

Here's a few fo the things we've been really enjoying over the last couple of weeks -

The board game Azul. As soon as I knew we'd be isolating as a family, I ordered this and I was so glad I did. It can be played with 2 upwards players and it is good fun and takes only about 30 minutes to play.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Visiting Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, East Sussex

Rye Harbour Nature Reserve

A great free place to visit

A couple of weeks ago when life was more normal, my husband and I headed out for a walk around the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve and had a quiet lunch together. Of course, right now, we couldn't do that as the pubs are closed and we're all staying home to heed off the coronavirus but I think it is important that we can enjoy the wider outdoors from the comfort of our homes right now.

Also, it's enjoyable to plan where we can go once the lockdown is over and things are safer again. Looking back on photos of all the amazing places I have visited is definitely helping me not to feel so cooped up since we started to self-isolate nearly two weeks ago. 

We were really impressed with the nature reserve, it's free, it is massive (465 hectares to be precise) and there is loads of free parking at the entrance to it, as long as your vehicle is under 2 metres. You are encouraged to make a donation in the car park, to help with its upkeep and ensure it stays free for all to use, but you can't moan at that!

There are easily accessible public toilets too, and nearby are a couple of pubs, a cafe, bed and breakfast, shop and the lifeboat station, all just a few minutes walk from the parking. 

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Updating our Lounge - Dreaming of a Brighter Future!

Photo by Guillermo Nolasco on Unsplash
{This is a collaborative post}

We moved into our house nearly seven years ago now and it's a truly beautiful home. Built-in the 1700's, it was originally a stable block for a large manor house and now I refer to it as the tardis, as on the outside it looks tiny, but when you come in, you realise it is very spacious. We really are very lucky to live here as part of my husband's job.

As the house isn't actually ours, we haven't done too much with it, it had all been cleaned up before we moved in, so we have magnolia walls and beige carpets, but they really are a bit boring and the furniture and soft furnishings we bought with us from our old home are not the most stylish. I've therefore decided it is time for an upgrade and I'm dreaming/ planning how we want it to look.

How is our lounge used?

I've never been one for following trends, I'm all about making the space work for our family and the way we use it. For us, the lounge is a sanctuary, it's where we come together to snuggle up and watch a film, it's where the cat gets played with, where we craft and make cards and often where my husband and I both work. In short, it is probably the most used room in the house and we spend well over 50% of our time in it.

Somewhere amazing to relax

I had a chat with all the family and asked them what they wanted from our lounge and the top answer was an amazing sofa. When we holidayed in an airbnb last year we had two of those sofas where you can raise up the footrest and relax back and everyone loved those, but I do worry about the durability of them, with kids keep flipping them up and down! With that in mind, I think we'll go for a massive corner sofa with deep seats and beautiful, soft cushions. As well as a couple of footstalls, so even when all five of us are together watching something we can still all have our feet up if we fancy.

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Cafe Tibbles at Beal’s Barn, Wadhurst - Review

Now the children are older and all at secondary school, it makes it a lot easier if my husband and I fancy a lunch date. He’s been working some weekend evenings recently and this means he gets a day off in the week. We’ve been making the most of these times recently with some trips out to try new places for lunch. It’s all too easy when you’ve been together for a quarter of a century to take each other for granted and not to spend time alone any longer.

The other week we took a trip over to Wadhurst to try out Cafe Tibbles at Beal’s Barn. My husband had been seeing their homemade cakes on Instagram and they’d tempted him in. I was certainly glad they did, as we had a lovely lunch together, but be warned it is definitely at the more expensive end of the cafe market.

Saturday, 14 March 2020

Talking to your Daughter Once she Starts her Periods - The Practicalities

Teen girls in a field together
Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

As parents, we're fully aware that we need to prepare our daughters for when they start menstruating. The NHS states that the average age in the UK is 12 years old, but it can be as young as 8, so it is important to have conversations early on with your child to ensure they feel ready for when the big day comes along.

Chatting to your child about puberty, menstruation, sex and other sensitive topics doesn't have to be difficult. if you can approach it in a matter-of-fact fashion and show that you won't be shocked, your child will probably be more open to talking to you. Have a look at my post from a couple of years ago with some tips for having an effective talk with your child.

What I've found is that it is all good-and-well having good, open conversations so your daughter feels prepared but actually when the time comes and they start their period, it is important to have another conversation. To actually talk them through some of the practicalities of having their periods, discussing items such as -

1.  Help her track it
We know that a young woman's period will last for between 3-7 days and will appear around every 28-30 days, but it is super easy to forget when you are due on and be caught out. So get your daughter a calendar, diary or online app like Period Tracker or Clue (here's a recent article on Good Housekeeping suggesting the best tracking apps) so she feels in control and gets to know her own menstrual cycle.