Friday, 25 September 2020

Operation Christmas Child - Box Packing Update for 2020

Operation Christmas Child shoebox header

I've now been involved with Operation Christmas Child for around 16 years and I still love it as much as I ever did. JJ has moved on and no longer helps me pack boxes but my twin girls are still keen and we often invite friends around for a box packing party, so a few of us can all do it together. 

Over the years I have been involved in various ways, from packing boxes as a family to organising assemblies at school, services at church, box packing parties (online and in real life), school and church collections, checking boxes before sending and even travelling to Belarus with Samaritans Purse to distribute boxes, be involved in live-streamed box opening and writing up the stories of the children I met. 

Things have been changing over the years and regulations have tightened up, meaning that not everything can be included in your box anymore. Also, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, you might be wondering if you can still create a physical box and the answer is yes. Samaritans Purse are still accepting boxes during the week of 9-16 November 2020. 

I thought it was important to update our box packaging tutorial here on the blog with all the latest 2020 information -

How to pack an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Gift

1)  Get a box - Either take a medium-sized shoebox and wrap the lid and box separately in festive and fun wrapping paper. Or you can use a pre-printed shoebox. available from Samaritans Purse. You can't buy these in packs of any less than 20, so they are good for schools, churches and community groups to buy and give out os sell individually. 

2)   Choose the sex and age - Choose which age group and sex you will make the box for. The choice is boy or girl for ages 2-4, 5-9 or 10-14. You can download and print labels from here for free. Make sure you attach the appropriate one to the top of your box.  

Thursday, 24 September 2020

How to Make a Pre-Teen Party a Success

    Photo by Amy Shamblen on Unsplash

Planning the perfect party can be a headache for any parent. Kids can be changeable at the best of times, and what they loved last month might not be what they like today. If you want to deliver the kind of amazing experience that your kid deserves, you might need a bit of help.

Planning a party for a preteen can be even more challenging because it’s often difficult for parents and guardians to find the balance between delivering the grown-up teenage experience that kids crave, and still catering to their younger tendencies. So, how do you make sure you impress your pre-teen with your party planning? These tips will help.

1.  Get the Right Gift

The great thing about pre-teens is that even if you mess up the entire party experience, they’re likely to forgive you as long as you get them the right present. The problem with this is that it can be notoriously tricky to figure out what your kids are going to enjoy. To avoid any mistakes, make sure that you keep an eye on your child for gift clues, for a couple of weeks leading up to the big day. You can also check out gift ideas sites like for inspiration relevant to their interests.

Ask for hints on the kind of presents that your child would like – most of the time, they won’t mind helping you out. You can also do some hunting online for some of the most popular items in the industry right now. Preteens generally like to keep up with what’s trending.

2.  Pick the Perfect Food

Another thing that can save just about any preteen party is the right food. Now probably isn’t the time for you to go all-in on your healthy eating strategy and try to get your kids to eat as many veggies as possible. Unless your child is one of the very few that actually likes eating healthy foods, ditch anything green and nutritious and replace it with the items you know your kids love.

Crisps, biscuits, candies, and home-made cakes always go down a treat. It might also be worth mixing up some mocktails for your kids too, to make them feel more grown-up. Placing fancy drinks into cocktail glasses can really class up a party. 

Thursday, 17 September 2020

What Next?

Girls going to secondary school

The girls have returned to secondary school and I dropped JJ off for his induction day at college and now I am sat at home, thinking 'what comes next for me?' I know I am in a season of mothering and supporting my husband but I also hope (and pray) that there is something really fulfilling in my future for me to do. I understand the importance of supporting others and being there to facilitate their lives, hopefully helping the kids to grow into decent citizens but I have to be honest, it doesn't give me that immense satisfaction that I get from paid work.

I feel like I'm sharing a dirty secret in having said that, as many homemakers and fellow Christian mums will be finding their satisfaction, contentment or purpose in serving their family, but it just doesn't do it for me. I do really enjoy being home for when I am needed; I like to clean, launder and make the house feel clean and comfortable but I also love the buzz of achievement.

I don't know if it is just the way I am wired or if it is because I didn't become a Christian until I was 28 and the world's view of success is deeply ingrained in me. Whichever, nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing my to-do list get ticked off and knowing I am achieving. It doesn't have to be anything particularly high-level or aspirational, I literally just like to be busy and work my way through a long list most days.

How to chose a Successful Wedding Venue in Covid Times

Photo by Jeremy Wong Weddings on Unsplash

{This is a collaborative post}

We all know this year has been one of the trickiest in recent decades, never before have we had our civil liberties curtailed in quite the same way, without there being widespread war. We're not out the woods yet though, the complete lockdown might be over, but we're seeing local lockdowns across the country and the World Health Organisation are warning us that there will be many differences, such as distancing and wearing face coverings for some time to come yet, maybe even a couple of years.

Having said all that, life can still go on for most of us and we're having to adapt to our new normal. People still wish to get married, celebrate their birthday or hold a wake for a lost loved one and we can do these things, we just have to make sure we are meeting the current Government guidance. 

This week we saw the introduction of the 'Rule of 6' in England and this means that right now social gatherings that you are organising as an individual can only be for 6 people, whether they are indoors or out. The good news is that when you move a wedding celebration or funeral wake to a COVID-secure venue provider, you can increase the number to 30 and there is hope within the event industry that this number will increase in October when new announcements are made by the Government. 

It's important that we still have things to look forward to and as such, I believe you should go ahead and still plan and book your celebrations for 2021, so here are my top tips for doing so -

1.  Think about what You really Want

You might have always imagined you'd have a winter wedding in a stately home with 200 guests but now is the time to really think that through. Could it be that an intimate outside tea party in spring with just 30 guests would suit you just as well and take away most of the stress of planning something so fancy? The great thing about our current situation is it frees you to think about what would really make you happy and to drop any expectations that family or others might have. 

Once you have decided what you want your event to look like, you need to agree your budget, choose the season/ date, set the attendance number and decide on the location. Basically, draw up a blueprint for the event and decide how hands-on you want to be. Do you need a dedicated event planner? Would the venue event organised be enough, or would you prefer to do everything yourself? The choice is yours!

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Reasons to be Cheerful - Suiting Myself!

ashburnham place

I have to say that I am really pleased that the girls have gone back to school and JJ has started college, this means I am getting a bit of time alone in my house again. I treasure this time. It's when I do the cleaning, listen to the silence and just suit myself.

Today all three kids were working and then the girls went into the local town with my hubby, this again left me alone to do whatever I wanted to do. So it has been the most lovely day and I feel as if I have achieved loads but it has been simple, no stress activities without having to travel anywhere. 

The only downside of my day was getting up early to ensure the girls got to work for 8am and JJ for 8.30am. I figured because I was already awake I might as well do an exercise DVD and clock up some good steps to start my day well.

It was then time for some yummy scrambled eggs on toast and preparing all the veggies for tonight's roast dinner whilst watching church online. I enjoyed the service and as it was just me in my kitchen I was able to sing to my heart's content.

A quick tidy of the kitchen, put the washing on and do the few bits of ironing I had and then I headed for a leisurely shower and a read of my book whilst I dried off. It really was a very slow-paced and enjoyable day!

I met JJ for lunch and we had ham and cheese paninis in the sun and then a walk around one of the lakes before he had to go back to work and I continued around the other lake and sat for quite some time praying and waiting on God. 

By the time I got back home, it was time to cook the roast dinner and watch a bit of Chicago PD as I did so. We then had a good family dinner together and everyone shared a little of their day. I got the kids to clear up and I read some more of my book.

And here I am now doing a spot of blogging whilst watching Home Alone. It really has been a lovely day, just suiting myself but still looking after my house and family. I'll be heading to bed soon for a little more reading and feeling quite content that I clocked up over 13,500 steps on my leisurely day.

I hope you've had a nice Sunday and been able to find even a little time to suit yourself too.

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

Friday, 28 August 2020

Visiting Nymans, National Trust, West Sussex in Summer

View from temple at Nymans
View from the Temple

We've really enjoyed getting out to many National trust sites over this strange Covid summer. We've found all the sites to be excellent at taking pre-booked customers and ensuring there is plenty of room for distancing, as well as being stunning to look round of course.

Miss E decided to join my husband and me on our trip to Nymans in July, and it is a perfect place for wandering and chatting to your family as you walk the stunning grounds. The National Trust describe Nymans as "a garden lovers' home for all seasons, with an extensive yet intimate garden set around a romantic house and ruins." 

There is a one-way system around the site at the moment and we found it easy to follow as a map is available. They have also mapped out a more accessible and level route for those who need it. At the moment the cafe and bookshop are closed but the shop was open and beautifully stocked.

It is worth noting that the only toilets available at the moment are the ones in the car park as Nymans are having some extensive work done to create a large suite of modern and accessible toilets for future use. 

I think pictures speak a thousand words, so have a look at Nymans in the sun. 

View to Nymans woodlands

The view out to the wider country estate with woodland, lakes and bird hides, perfect for exploring and seeing what wildlife and birds you can spot. The woodland walks are again open and there are circular waymarked routes of between 0.75 miles and 2.5 miles. Here is a map of the gardens and woodland. 

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Eight Considerations for Successfully Converting your Loft Space

Photo by SEASHELL IN LOVE - Kristin on Unsplash

                              {This is a collaborative post}

If your house is starting to feel as if you are outgrowing it, but you can’t afford the expense of moving, have you thought about renovating your loft and converting it into another bedroom, or maybe a study or playroom?

Financially speaking, loft conversions are always a good idea as they can add a large amount to the value of your home. Of course, there will be some disruption to your comfort of living whilst the renovation is going on and a new staircase is installed but the extra space and the value you gain will be totally worth it in the end.

Check out these eight considerations for successfully converting your loft space –

Do I need planning permission?

If you are mostly intending to do internal work and just put in some roof windows to gain light, you shouldn’t need to seek planning permission. Generally, a small-scale loft conversion is considered to be permitted development, but of course, it is always worth checking for your specific circumstances at the time, as there is nothing worse than having to apply for retrospective planning and potentially having to undo your hard work if planning consent is not given.

Does building regulations approval apply?

If you are creating a liveable space (that is a space that you’ll regularly use as part of your home) then UK building regulations are sure to apply and you’ll need to ensure that internal and external walls, floors, roofing, drainage, electrics and doors and windows all meet the regulations. If you are new to this area it is definitely worth contacting Building Control to discuss your plans and seek feedback on what they need from you.

Thursday, 20 August 2020

Getting Your Fill Of Fitness As You Get A Little Older

Image Credit

{This is a collaborative post}

As we get into our middle-ages, it can become all too clear that we don’t have the physical prowess as we did in our youth. You might not quite be over the hill just yet, but keeping yourself in good condition becomes a little more work. As such, here, we’re going to take a look at what you can do to make sure you’re getting the exercise you need as you get a little older, and how to make sure you’re doing it safely and securely.

Get your heart pumping 
First of all, let’s talk about making sure you’re doing the right kinds of exercises. Aerobic exercises typically tend to be the easiest ones to get into since they don’t require as much equipment. Simply put, this is any exercise like jogging, skipping, swimming, and dancing that gets your heart pumping, improving your cardiovascular system. For instance, you can make use of a walking app to get 20 minutes or more in, 3 or 4 days a week. To make sure you’re not pushing yourself too hard, you want to exercise at a pace where you can carry a conversation, as this ensures you’re able to get enough breath to support the processes of the body during exercise.

Support your body 
You don’t have to want to build a body replete with rippling muscles in order to see the benefits of some strength training. In fact, as we grow older, it becomes more important than ever to build the muscle that will help support the rest of our bones. This can help prevent issues in bone strength in later life, as well as improving your posture, reducing your chances of a back injury. There are plenty of body-weight strength-building exercises that can help you build a reliable level of bodily muscle. However, you can also look at using light hand weights for a range of simple exercises. You can add these into your cardio exercises or do separate sessions, whichever feels most comfortable.

Stay limber and stay happy 
As we get older, one of the biggest risks to our bodily independence is when we find we’re not able to move as well as we could before. You might feel right now that you can’t bend over as much as you could in the past or aren’t quite as flexible. As we get older, this can extend to things like an inability to climb up the stairs or into the bath. The best way to prevent this is with stretching and flexibility exercises like yoga. These can help you greatly increase and retain your body’s range of motion. Furthermore, you should be stretching before and after every single exercise you do, anyway. Otherwise, you can end up injuring yourself, delaying your next workout session which can, in turn, diminish the results of your otherwise healthy lifestyle.

Friday, 14 August 2020

Super Hot Reasons to be Cheerful

I have to admit that I don't much like the heat. I'm really not built for it and unless I am on a sun lounger, under a parasol, reading a book, by the pool then I'm not interested. If I had my way, I'd just stay in and be cool, but of course with kids and especially being away from home I had to head out and make the best of it. Usually, I'd slip into a supermarket for a bit to enjoy the air-conditioning but right now with Covid and masks, I'm staying away from those as much as possible.

Despite the crazy heat here in East Sussex, it has been a great month and here are some of the things that have been making me super happy.

My Mum and Dad came to stay in the cottage we have on-site here and it was lovely to spend a whole week with them, visiting lots of open spaces.

I've had a few trips to Bodiam Castle recently as it is super close to my home. Here is Miss E feeding the ducks, they do seem to love her.

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

How much do you know about Laser Hair Removal Treatment?

Image Credit: Thérapie Clinic

{This post is written in collaboration with Austin K}
For those who are tired of plucking, tweezing, shaving, and waxing their unwanted body hair away, laser hair removal treatment could be your perfect choice as it is one of the most advanced hair removal treatments chosen by thousands of people each year, because of its outstanding outcomes.
If you are looking for a permanent hair-free solution within just a few treatments, then search no more, as laser treatment could be your answer. As a cosmetic treatment, the laser is known for its non-invasiveness, precision, and speed in treating unwanted body hair anywhere on your body. The concentrated laser beams target and destroy the hair follicles that are present inside the skin’s surface so that hair no longer grows back and it only affects the specific structures of the hair and follicle, leaving the surrounding skin undamaged.
If you’ve held back, worrying about how much it will hurt, then fear not as the cooling technology attached to the laser will reduce the pricking sensation and make the entire process mainly pain-free and super simple, whilst being very effective. A top tip is to avoid caffeine before your treatment as this can make your skin more sensitive.

Saturday, 8 August 2020

5 Things to Consider when Preparing to Rent your House Out

Handing over keys
Photo by Maria Ziegler on Unsplash
{This is a collaborative post}

Like me, you might never have considered becoming a landlord, but what I now know is that it is far easier than I feared. I have a couple of local friends who are in the same situation as me, where we get our houses provided with our husband's jobs and whilst they both went for the renting option, we decided to sell our old house. Well, now they are quids in and we are £130K down! Yep, you read that right, in the last 7 years, the house we sold has risen by £130,000 without any works having been done on it, as we did all those before we moved out.

I think because our move was quite a quick one, it just felt far too scary to rent our house out and to live over 100 miles away from it, but I need not have feared as I now know that is what a good Lettings Agent does for you. If you're in the position of thinking about renting your property out because you're heading abroad for a bit, been given a house with your job or for another reason entirely, read on to see what you need to consider when you rent out your property and become a landlord -

1.  Do your Preparation and Research

Have a look at sites like Zoopla and Rightmove and see what kind of rents people are achieving in your area. Think about what kind of people you think your home might suit best - a professional couple, a small family, roommates? Each different demographic comes with their own pros and cons, so have a think about this and who you think it might be best to let your property to. Do you want to let your house furnished or not?

Also, work out your budget, how much does it cost to pay the outgoings for your property each month, add on the cost of the letting agent and any profit you with to make and you have an idea of what you need to be charging. Hopefully, it will fall in line with what you have discovered others are charging for similar properties.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

3 Inspiring House Warming Gift Ideas

Photo by 8-Low Ural on Unsplash

{This is a collaborative post}

With the coronavirus-induced lockdowns easing slowly, we are now able to meet people outside and enjoy some socially distanced company. If you are eager to head around to your friend’s new place, you might want to take something with you for a house warming gift.

With the world having been closed down for the past three months, it can be difficult to work out the tone of the gathering that your friend is hosting. House-warming soirees are usually full of hugs, congratulations, and close contact. This cannot happen at the moment, so you are restricted with what you can experience at the new dwelling. A house tour may be off the cards but a garden barbecue might not be. Take a look at these ideas to inspire your house warming gift-giving during this time of pandemic -

Go Personal 

The most thoughtful gifts are those that veer away from the generic. Rather than picking up some tea towels for the kitchen of your nearest and dearest, you could opt for a more customized approach. Tea towels printed with their faces, their names, or a Google street view of their new pad can be quirky and raise a smile. Alternatively, consider personalized mugs, glassware, and coasters. Gifting them something that is bespoke will ensure that your present remains in the home for a long time and will be a memorable addition to their new pad. If your friends are cooks, his and hers aprons could go down well. Or perhaps some personalised egg cups will generate a few laughs. You know them best and there are so many great personalised gifts out there now, go wild and choose something special.

Staying Safe on Holiday in Columbus, Ohio

Photo by Oz Seyrek on Unsplash

{This is a collaborative post}

Going on holiday with young children can be incredibly daunting. While you are familiar with your local area, going out of your own county/ state or even to a different country can pose new challenges. You may not be certain on the laws of your destination, or about how to navigate your way around with children.

There are also a number of reasons which may cause illness or injury on holiday. Even something as simple as the tap water at your residence, the meals you consume, or bites from insects local to the region can cause illness, injury, or distress. If something does go awry, you may find it beneficial to speak to a personal injury lawyer (based in or around Columbus).

There are also a number of ways in which you can reduce your chances of issues arising whilst you're away, read on to find out...

Plan Ahead in Case Children Get Lost 

Even younger children may be able to understand some basic instructions regarding what to do if they get lost. Instructing them to speak to a Columbus police officer, or shop employee can be a good way of them getting help. Giving them information such as your full name, as opposed to “my mommy” and we're you're staying will also help officials find and reunite you.

Alternatively, you could also look into means of tracking your child via GPS. Whether you use a watch or stick-on device, knowing that your child’s location will always be a click of a button away can give you some peace of mind.

A trip anywhere can pose dangers if you do not consider all aspects beforehand. By planning ahead, and ensuring everyone knows what to do in the event of separation, you will be arming your family with the tools they need to navigate common dangers they may face in life, not just on holiday.

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Eat Out to Help Out - Find out who is Offering 50% Discount in August 2020

Orangery Tea Room, Ashburnham Place
Orangery Tea Room, Battle, East Sussex

Do you feel ready to join in with the Government's August scheme to help boost spending within the hospitality sector? From the friends I have spoken to, this scheme feels like a mixed blessing. On the one hand, they are keen to get out and have a meal, enjoying a sense of normality in this strange time, but on the other, they can be fearful that too much of a sense of normality is what will lead to a rise again in cases of coronavirus.

I've been out for a couple of meals since restaurants were allowed to re-open again at the beginning of July and personally I have found them to be fine. We booked for a time we knew would be less busy and found there is excellent distancing between the tables and considerate servers. So, for us, we will be joining in with this scheme and enjoy taking advantage of 50% off food and non-alcoholic drinks at participating businesses.

I felt it was apt to be organised, as all restaurants have less capacity than normal and booking is encouraged for most good restaurants, so I have booked for one night a week to try out a few new places and have some (hopefully) really enjoyable meals. My husband said to me to book for the ones that are normally more expensive and we might avoid, as this gives us an affordable way to try them out.

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Bedgebury, Goudhurst, Kent - An Amazing Day Out for all the Family

Bedgebury Header

Back in April 2017, we visited Bedgebury National Pinetum and Forest as we were going to try out the Go Ape course. Despite having lived only 30 minutes away for a good few years it was our first visit there and we were impressed. We all had an amazing day at the Forestry Commission site that is a 200-acre Pinetum and 2000-acre forest. I'd heard many times before that it is a great place for families to visit but I wasn't in a hurry to drive over and pay for parking as we ourselves live in 220 acres of glorious East Sussex countryside. 

It wasn't until a couple of weeks ago when we were due to head to Go Ape again that we made our next trip to Bedgebury, and it still is as glorious as ever. We need to go back as a family and take a picnic to spend a number of hours there walking the trails without the distraction of doing Go Ape and being tried afterwards!

I love that the Forestry Commission describe Bedgebury as a 'world of trees' and you can check out their website before you travel if you want to know more about all the tree species you'll see once there. If you like to be outside there is so much to do at Bedgebury and it is open 8am - 7pm daily at the moment -

Walking Trails

Again head to the website to download maps for various trails across the massive site. There are gentle strolls, nordic walking trails, seasonal trails, challenging health walks and calorie mapped trails. Normally you can pick up maps in the Visitor Centre too, but right now, due to Covid-19 it is closed. They are working on reopening it soon though and you can find lots of information on the website.

There are four orienteering trails for all abilities, they are professionally designed and affiliated to the British Orienteering Federation. The four different routes are suitable for children, beginners, intermediate and advanced.

Dogs are welcome at Bedgebury, but of course, you must follow the forest rules.

Sunday, 19 July 2020

Planning to get Pregnant - 7 Things to Consider

Photo by Anna Pritchard on Unsplash
{This is a collaborative post}

Getting pregnant, having a baby and becoming a parent are something many of us take for granted. Growing up I had no desire to have children of my own; I didn't have any younger family members, so I never babysat and spent time around little ones and I just didn't think they'd be a part of my life. Roll forward a number of years and I found the right partner and kids very firmly become a part of my future.

I never realised what a rollercoaster it could be to conceive and then have a baby though, that knowledge only came to me through experience. In October 2002 when my husband and I were on honeymoon we decided to try for a child and I stopped taking the pill. Having been on it for around a decade I was led to believe it was going to take 6 months to a year for it to leave my system and for me to fall pregnant. Not so! It really is different for everyone. I fell pregnant on 31st December 2002 and had JJ in early October 2003. From planning to having a baby in my arms in just under a year, it was no wonder I thought the second child would come easily.

Things often don't go as expected though and when we decided to try for another baby about a year after having JJ, it just didn't happen. It took until late 2006 and having been off work for a while with neuralgia bought on by bells palsy to fall pregnant again. Then we discovered it was a twin pregnancy, probably due to my taking a super high dose of vitamin B12 (for the bells palsy) and also folic acid at that time, as well as being stress-free.

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Summertime Reasons to be Cheerful #R2BC

Time just seems to have been escaping me recently. The easing of lockdown has meant that the centre where I live is slowly re-opening and this means I've been busy helping my husband get things ready and also doing the social media. Add that to my regular work, looking after the house and trying to keep the kids interested in their education and I've been a busy girl. Here is my home looking really beautiful as I drove back in at sunset the other day -

I've had some great walks out in our grounds with my kids over the last few months. Sunset is a popular time, once dinner and tidying up is done, we head off and wander. The girls go on the swing, they teach me tik tok dances and they laugh at me, it's bliss!

Saturday, 11 July 2020

8 Ways to Feel Better about Yourself

Photo by Ellieelien on Unsplash
{This is a collaborative post}

We've been living through such a strange and difficult time the last few months and as lockdown starts to ease and hopefully life becomes a little more normal again, it is good to think about what we can do to give ourselves a little boost. Many of us have been desperate to get our hair cut or our nails done, and those simple actions can make you feel more confident and ready to face the world. But I've also been musing some other ideas of what we can do if we are feeling a bit flat right now and as if we need to start to feel better about ourself again.

So how about these ideas? -

1.  Have a day to yourself

If lockdown has meant you've been home with those you love 24/7 then you might just be desperate for some alone time. Now that more places are opening up and perhaps you can get out as you have a babysitter, why not consider a day shopping in your favourite town. Or maybe taking a very long walk in a local country park, seaside or forest. Pack a flash and a picnic if you still want to stay away from people, or it might be your idea of heaven to be able to have a good coffee al fresco outside your favourite cafe.

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.