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. 

Friday, 13 March 2020

Tips for making Dating work, when you're a Single Parent

caring couple and small child
Photo by Lauren Samuels on Unsplash
{This is a collaborative post}

Once you have children life changes, of course for the better but it can also make some things a little more tricky. Things like dating for instance. You haven't stopped being an adult who needs company, companionship, romance or sex just because you have one or more children. So it's important to find a way to make dating work for you if you are keen to seek a new partner or even just some friendship,

Here, my friend Katie shares with you her tips as a single mum who has successfully got back out there after the break-up of her long-term relationship and found a new man that she thinks she'll have a future with.

1.  Be honest about the fact you're a parent

If your new partner has a problem with kids then you need to know this upfront, as your children are always going to come first and if one of them is ill and you need to cancel, you should be sure that he/she will understand. Being honest and having open conversations is definitely the best basis for any new relationship.

2.  Don't overshare on the first couple of dates

Take things slowly with regard to revealing all about your family situation and children. Get to know your date a bit before you go into why your relationship with the kid's other parent didn't work out, or the ins and outs of your kids' lives.

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Spring Cleaning Doesn't need to be Overwhelming

Grey colour scheme lounge
Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash
{This is a collaborative post}

The stormy weather may be denying that Spring is here but the clocks going forward in a couple of weeks confirm it. The blossom is starting to bloom and I'm not needing to defrost my car in the mornings, so those are both serious reasons to be thankful for Spring. Luckily I'm one of those people who enjoy a good cleaning session, but I know I am in the minority so I thought I'd share with you my tips for spring cleaning, without the overwhelm.

1.  Make a Plan

How deep do you want to clean? It is totally up to you, it's your home after all. Of course, if you want to wash every wall, and clean all the curtains, it is going to take you longer, but that's OK just plan for it. Try to be realistic and depending how much cleaning you want to do and what time you have, make a list of all the tasks that need doing and plan what you will be able to do in a week. My Spring cleaning takes about 4 weeks, as I do like to do the whole house and really give it a good going over.

2.  Tackle the clutter

Before you even get on with the cleaning, it is important to de-clutter and tidy up. Just imagine how much longer it will take you to clean if you are working around the mess. A few years ago I employed the Mari Kondo method for clearing out and I found it worked a treat. I'm probably at the point of needing to clear out again, but being very strict and assessing if items bought me joy was a great way of clearing out and being ruthless.

Sunday, 8 March 2020

International Women's Day: Amazing Sight-Saving Women

International Women's Day is a commemorative day that hadn't even landed on my radar until I started to work with charities and NGO's like Save the Children, One and Samaritan's Purse back in 2011/12. I've never been much of a feminist; my narrative growing up was that women could be who they wanted to be and do what they wanted to do. I was lucky to have parents who believed in me and pushed me to break any glass ceilings that got in my way.

It was having my own children and especially my twin girls that really lit my passion for fighting for the rights of parents (particularly mothers) everywhere. My time as a #ONEMum has shaped my life immensely, and events like International Day of the Girl (11 October each year) and International Women's Day (8 March) are now pivotal in my calendar and I hate to let them pass without marking them in some way, and especially without speaking out on behalf of those who find it hard to share their voice.

See the Way

This IWD I want to share with you the ‘See the Way,’ appeal from CBM UK which is raising money to help more people access sight-saving surgery, glasses and support so they can go to school, read and write, get around safely and support themselves and their families. The appeal has been running since 12th February and goes on until 12th May 2020. The most wonderful news is that they have match funding from the UK government and for every £1 that someone like you or me donates, the government matches it and thus there is twice the money to go towards sight-saving initiatives in Malawi.

Nearly two-thirds of the world’s blind people are women. Too often, women’s health and wellbeing is still valued less than that of men, which means they are less likely to access sight-saving medical care. International Women’s Day, is a day to remember the continued gender imbalance in our world but it is also a day to celebrate the huge role that women around the world play in driving positive change.

Women like Debisa, who is based in the Amhara region in Northern Ethiopia, are working every day to help ensure that fewer people go needlessly blind from conditions that can be treated. When I spent a couple of weeks in Ethiopia in 2012 visiting community projects I met so many of the rural health workers and they were amazing women. Most of them were young and passionate to see change; to help their fellow Ethiopians be as well as possible, despite the very challenging situations most of them lived in.

Debisa goes from village to village to find people living with trachoma and provide them with eye drops to save their sight. Trachoma is an infectious disease which causes roughening of the inner eyelids. This roughness leads to pain, damage to the cornea and eventual blindness if left untreated, but something as simple as these eye drops make a real difference. This region in Ethiopia has one of the highest trachoma prevalence rates in the world – over half of the population have this blinding eye condition, and that is why Debisa and her colleagues are working with CBM to change this.

I'm sure you'll agree that the See the way appeal is very worthwhile and any donations made will help train health workers, equip hospitals and strengthen eye health systems for the future, helping build communities where nobody is needlessly blind in Malawi.

If you'd like to make a donation, however small, please do. 

And this International Women's Day take time to think about all the female champions you know, the women making a difference, whether that is through supporting the next generation as a teacher or mother, or a woman moving to the top of her field and making a worldwide difference.

Who is CBM?
Too many people face poverty and isolation, denied the chance to go to school or earn a living, just because they have a disability. Driven by Christian values, CBM works in the world’s poorest places, preventing blindness, improving health and transforming the lives of people with disabilities. For more information about CBM, visit


Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Capturing those Treasured Family Moments

{This is a collaborative post}

When you become a parent a really special thing happens, your heart expands and you are able to love another person as much as your spouse. Everything about that small person who has joined your family captivates you and you feel compelled to store up the memories for a rainy day. Even if you've never been the kind of person to take lots of photos or videos before, I can guarantee that will change when you become a parent.

Luckily in this day and age, it is very easy to capture all the precious moments and memories. Here are a few ideas on how to capture all those little times that you don't want to forget.

Blogging/ Instagram

My blog was born in 2008 when my twin girls were a few months old and I wanted to share photos and the things we had been up to with family and friends that live quite a distance. Little did I know quite how much this hobby would grow. Nowadays many people are more likely to share on social media in the form of a microblog, on sites like Instagram or Facebook as it is far less time-intensive than a traditional blog.

Monday, 2 March 2020

Five ways to Update your Style in your Forties

Glamorous mature woman
Photo by Adalia Botha on Unsplash
{This is a collaborative post}

This year I'll turn 47 and I don't think I'd win any prizes for my personal style. Don't get me wrong I am always clean and presentable but comfort is definitely my number one priority rather than fashion. It's not that I like jogging bottoms or anything quite so horrendous, but I am usually spotted in jeans, a fairly smart top and a cardigan. I think that is my signature look and I've been starting to wonder if I ought to have a rethink.

I am plus size and that impacts what I feel comfortable to wear. I know many body-positive activists will tell me to wear whatever I like, to go for a crop top or body con dress if I fancy and I get that. But the thing is I don't fancy either of those things, I like to dress modestly and in a way that I think is appropriate for a 46-year-old married mother of three. We're all different and we have to embrace our personality and who we are.

Despite not wanting to change too radically, I am thinking that this year should be one of growth for me and updating my style is one way to do that. So here are five ways to update your style when you are in your forties and don't want to go too extreme!

1.  Invest in a human hair wig

I do love my blonde hair but it has a tendency to frizz and won't grow any longer than I have it now. It would be a dream come true to get long and thick hair easily by buying a best human hair wig. I don't think I'd change from blonde, but I would maybe go for a few shades lighter and definitely longer. I've only ever worn a wig for fancy dress before and they've never been great quality, so it would be such a treat to try a decent one that actually looks natural and matches my skin tone.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Too much Pressure on our Girls! It has to Stop #BeALady

Mother and tween daughter
Miss E - artistic, expressive, loyal, hard-working, conscientious, honest, great sense of humour,
true to herself, authentic, brave, determined, self-disciplined, diligent, caring and creative

I came across a video today and it makes for a very interesting, powerful and scary watch. The video has been created by Girls. Girls. Girls. magazine and it shows Cynthia Nixon narrating the words of Camille Rainville.

"Don’t be too fat. Don’t be too thin. Eat up. Slim down. Stop eating so much. Don’t eat too fast. Order a salad. Don’t eat carbs. You need to lose weight. Go on a diet. God, you look like a skeleton. Why don’t you just eat? You look sick. Eat a burger. Men like women with some meat on their bones. Be light. Be little. Be petite. Be feminine."

To be truthful it made me feel sick, as these are the messages that I've heard for the last 46 years and my girls are hearing every day now. They are not new messages, but it is time for them to stop.

Girls, women, ladies, call us what you will. We are people, just like men are and as such we deserve to live our lives as freely as men do.

We can be who we want to be.

We can look and dress in a way that pleases us.

We do not have to conform.

We do not have to live up to your standards.

We have value and worth without doing anything.

We are lovable and likeable.

We are so much more than a body.

We deserve respect.

We are unique, every last one of us and that is exactly how God meant it to be.

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Bodiam Castle - Amazing History and Great for all the Family

Bodium castle from the front

Amazing History

The other week after Storm Clara, my family were desperate to get out for a bit and enjoy the blue sky that had shown itself. As it was already after lunch we didn’t want to travel too far and thus decided to head just twenty minutes up the road from us to Bodiam. I hadn't been to the castle for 3 or 4 years and whilst nothing much changes at this 14th century moated castle, the views are always beautiful and there are plenty of walks local to the castle to enjoy.

Bodiam Castle is what many people refer to as a ‘proper’ castle as it’s outer walls are beautifully intact, and it sits fully surrounded by a moat. It makes for the most magnificent pictures and is fun inside too, despite being ruins. You can still climb some of the spiral staircases to go up and see how it looks from the top of the castle on a rampart and also the Posters tower, but be aware these are narrow, well-worn and spindly stone steps. If you don’t like enclosed spaces or have physical difficulties they might not be for you. I’m fully able, but was a bit nervous and took it slowly up and down the rampart staircases. However, I declined to go up the tower as that has two-way traffic on one small staircase and that was too much for me. My husband and daughter went up there and said it had amazing views though.

Inside Bodiam castle

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Put Your Home in Order – Useful Tips

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

{This is a collaborative post}

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

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

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

Cleaning as you go

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