Friday, 20 September 2019

It's Time for Reasons to be Cheerful...


I'm a little early but that's OK, as it's my blog and I can choose what I want to do. To be honest I've not been feeling the blogging mojo just recently. I think as I've started a new job and it's been the summer holiday I've just been really short of time.

I'm off to the Blog On conference tomorrow (my first one) and I am really hoping to re-find my love of blogging, and to want to get back in to writing. It should be a lot of fun, but I haven't been to a blogging conference for a couple of years now and I'm going on my own, so I am a tad nervous and want to make sure I find my confidence so I can chat to people.

To gte me in the right spirit for tomorrow I want to share my reasons to be cheerful for this week. These are all the simple moments that I am super grateful for.

  • It's been a productive week, workwise
  • Having fajitas and enjoying the company of my kids as we ate
  • I've joined the chorus of the village panto and we had our first practise. I think I'll have a lot of fun getting involved with this
  • I had a new fridge and freezer delivered and installed. This will make such a difference, as we were super tight for space
  • Clearing all the summer stuff out the dining room and taking it back up to the shed
  • Getting JJ's massive amount of Lego sold and out the house
  • Bleeding the radiators and the house toastie again
  • I've had some great walks around the grounds of my home
  • I had the most divine hot chocolate whilst soaking my feet (I really am an 80 year old in a 46 year olds body!)
  • Having a super chilled Friday with my parents, including liver and bacon for lunch, yummy!
  • I'm at Blog On today and keen to learn something new and to have my blogging fire reignited
  • Choosing not to stay overnight tonight and drink too much alcohol. This means I can get home and go to church with my family Sunday morning
See, it really is the simple things that can make me smile. I tend to find that when I remember to be grateful for the simple stuff, the big stuff takes care of itself. 

Wishing you a great week ahead. Do share what has made you cheerful this week and feel free to link a post up with Becky at Lakes Single Mum for Reasons to be Cheerful. 


Sunday, 15 September 2019

Making Progress...


Myself and my friend Rachel (Mid Life Single Mum) agreed we'd post every couple of weeks to stay accountable for how we are doing in relation to the changes we want to make to our lives. She suggested we do a Slimming Sunday post, as that was something we both used to do and I thought, yes great idea but then I've been thinking about posting yesterday and today and not feeling at all motivated.

As I mused why, I realised that my focus isn't on slimming. Yes, of course I need to lose a serious amount of weight, but that isn't so I'll be slim. Being slim and being able to dress in whichever clothes I fancy will be a nice bonus, but the main thing is to lose weight to improve my health and get rid of the many ailments I currently have.

On Friday 6th September I started to make choices that would lead to better health for me and I want to celebrate those good choices. There have been times, even days in the last week or so when I haven't been great, when my choice has perhaps been a poor one, but I don't want to linger on those times and beat myself up, I want to focus on the good and as such I'll link this post up with Reasons to be Cheerful as I am seriously grateful for the good choices I have been making, some of which will seem so silly to many but for me they are steps in the right direction - progress.


  • I faced the music and went to see my doctor to get weighed and to have my blood pressure checked. I was super pleased to find I was only 0.5kg more than when I last saw her about six months ago and my BP was fine.
  • I've had some great days food wise, making good choices and not feeling deprived because of them
  • I've been eating fruit. This might not sound much to many, but fruit I've always regarded as a waste of calories and I've chosen an apple, bananas and plums this week
  • I even muttered the words 'no, I'm not hungry' when offered something by JJ
  • I restarted at the gym and had a gym and a swimming session last week, at two different places. My membership gives me access to about six clubs and I intend to explore them all
  • I've been choosing to drink tea over coffee as this saves me milk and sugar in every cup
  • My water intake has been good and I've been remembering to hydrate
  • I haven't been allowing other peoples negative moods impact on me
  • I contacted my coach and we set up a meeting to talk and this always helps me to clear my thoughts and to be sure of where I am heading
  • I've been making more time to read and pray each each
It's been an acceptable start to making better choices and improving my life for the better. There is four years until I hit 50 and that feels like a great milestone to head towards.

Onwards and upwards!

Linking up with Becky at Lakes Single Mum

Monday, 9 September 2019

8 Ways to Spend more Time Together as a Family

Photo by Kevin Delvecchio on Unsplash
{Collaborative Post}

In this day and age it is far to easy to allow time to whizz by and for all the family to do totally different activities. Of course it is healthy to spend time apart and they say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but I find it is also good to plan intentional time for all the family to be together.

We may not all love the same activity, but as long as we are doing things at some point that each family member enjoys then it is good to grow in tolerance and to partake in each others preferred activities.

Here are a few examples of the ways we like to spend time together as a family, I hope they'll encourage you to do the same. Of course it isn't every day but at least once a week we have a good couple of hours where we all put down the phones and engage with each other.

1.  Cycle, skate or scoot together
My family all love to cycle and the kids enjoy scooting as well. The girls then go one step further and are great roller skaters too. As for me, well I am not great with anything on just a couple of wheels, so if I am going to join the family for a fun family cycle I'd need to invest in a Jorvik adult tricycle, as three wheels will suit me much better I am sure!

2.  Play Board Games
We all enjoy playing a good board game together, I think this is because I started to play with the kids from a young age. What started as snakes and ladders, progressed to Monopoly and now we love to play Risk or Catan.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Tips for Helping with the Back to School Sleep Routine

Sleeping cat
Photo by Alexandru Zdrob─âu on Unsplash
{Collaborative Post}

My kids went back to school yesterday and I know I was supposed to have got them back in a routine of going to bed earlier and being ready to wake for the early mornings and I had good intentions, honestly I did! But it just didn't seem to fall into place this year. I blame where we live, there is just too many fun things going on and the girls in particular want to be involved in everything.

Thankfully they all got up fine for their first morning back and I am determined to help them get back on track over the weekend. I assume there are other parents like me who didn't manage to get their kids back on track this last week so I thought it might be useful to share my tips for helping your child have a good nights sleep -

1.  Check out your child's bed and mattress. I spent a night on Miss M's bed recently as she was poorly and had fallen asleep in my bed. I thought I'd be kind and leave her there for the night but boy did I regret it as her mattress is horrible, even though it is fairly new. You really are worth investing in a good mattress, so why not take a look at the beds from Bed Guru.

2.  Keep sleep and wake times constant, even on the weekend. I've had to lay down the law with my 12 year olds and tell them there is no more sitting quietly on the sofa and hoping to be forgotten, they need to be in bed by 9.30pm at the latest.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Port Lympne Animal Reserve, Kent - Kids Go Free in September 2019

Port Lympne header image


We've been to Port Lympne animal reserve a few times now and each visit has been so much fun. We've been in the summer when it was super busy and during a week day when the kids are at school and it feels like we're the only ones there (we're not!), and both occasions have been great fun. Earlier this week when most of the East Sussex and Kent schools had gone back we headed to Port Lympne with my mum and brother to visit for the first time. They'd heard so many great things from me that they didn't want to stay away.

Port Lympne is set is picturesque countryside, but it is quite a steep hill, so I was interested to see how we'd all cope as mum has COPD, I've got calf issues currently and my brother had a knee op earlier this year. I was so impressed that when I mentioned mum's condition to any of the staff they told me I could approach any member of staff with a radio, if we needed to, and they would get a minibus to take mum back to the top. It turned out we didn't need to, as we took it easy on the hills, made use of all the appropriately positioned benches and stopped to look at the animals as we went.

4 animals at port Lympne
On the day we visited it was raining terribly when we awoke and we weren't too keen to wander around in the rain, so we left it a while for the weather to clear and thankfully by the time we got there at 1pm the skies were blue and the sun had come out. Mum was a little worried that we wouldn't get long at the park as we had only arrived at lunchtime but thankfully it doesn't close until 6.30pm, so we had plenty of time.

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Changes are Coming....


It's been a lovely summer and it feels like a very long one. We've had a short break in Kent and a couple of days in London and now my parents and brother are here staying for the week. I've been at work one day a week, and that's been a nice escape and the kids have all had time away at camp and grandparents.

But now I am ready for school to resume and normality to come back. I like a break and a rest, but then I love routine too and I really am craving some quite times to myself without any shouts of mum or moans as they wind each other up and bicker.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record I have realised (again) that I must lose weight and this isn't just something I fancy, it really is something I MUST do. I have developed carpel tunnel syndrome in one hand, I still have pains in my left foot that never go away, my calves ache after too vigorous exercise, I have arthritis in my knee joints and my right thigh goes numb/ has pins and needles if I stand for too long. Add that to asthma and high blood pressure and you can see that I need to do what I can to try and give my body a fair chance at being healthy.

I've been burying my head in the sand for too long and I need to put as much effort into my own health as I do to anything else in my life. Nothing else will give me the quality of life that a healthier body would, so it completely makes sense to invest in that area. It really does seem crazy that I choose to eat too much and the wrong foods, rather than sacrificing a few calories.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

National Trust - Sheffield Park - Summer in Pictures

We've visited the National Trust site Sheffield Park a couple of times before and both times had a lovely visit, but recently with the kids away my husband and I decided to visit again and see what the colours and plant life were like in the summer months (we visited at the beginning of August). 

Sheffield Park is acres of landscaped gardens, surrounded by parkland and woodland. There is a gorgeous looking stately home there too, but that is a private residence and you can only see if from afar.

So far my favourite time to visit has been Autumn as there is an abundance of colour across the gardens and we could see this developing in August. The colours at this time of year mostly seem to come from the trees and foliage. There isn't really many floral plants there.

Sheffield park trees in glorious colour

I do love the four lakes, they are probably my favourite feature and there is a nice variety of styles and bridges that you can cross and get great pictures on. You can really see the influence of Capability Brown.

lake view at Sheffield park

Saturday, 24 August 2019

Double Reasons to be Cheerful - Moments of Joy #R2BC

Happy Saturday friends!  I hope you've been well and enjoying Summer. I have a double whammy edition of Reasons to be Cheerful today as last weekend we'd been away for my birthday and then I was doing a car boot sale so I didn't have time to get one organised.

I thought I'd share some simple moments of joy with you from the last couple of weeks.

Strawberry picking with my girls, we managed to get the very last of this years crop.


Playing with our cat. He really does love the laser light and a ribbon on a stick, we had him running everywhere!


Simple moments in London. On the way home from the theatre, after a bus ride through London the girls were thrilled to find this very cool wall near our hotel. Totally perfect for Instagram!

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Our Stay at Ro's Place, Near Whitstable through AirBnB

Lounge/ dining room

I love to get away with the family but with three adult sized kids, it is becoming harder and harder to find an affordable option that has enough flexibility to allow us all to be happy and relaxed. Air BnB seems to have become our accommodation of choice. I can opt for a whole house, with enough bedrooms and also choose the other factors that are important to our family like good WiFi, easy parking and a garden.

We first stayed in one back in 2017, when we stayed at the White House in Fakenham, then again earlier this year at Squirrel Court in Bradford and recently we spent a few very pleasant days at Ro’s Place close to Whitstable in Kent. This Air BnB only opened up in April this year, so it’s new to the market and as such I thought I’d share about our stay there.


Beach front near Whitstable
Just a few minutes walk from the house is the seafront

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Family Visit to London Zoo in the Rain with BuyAGift


It was my birthday earlier this week and our family had decided to have a night staying up in London, along with a theatre show. We were pondering what we might do on our second day when BuyAGift offered me the chance for us all to visit London Zoo, on one of their experience day vouchers.

I was very happy to take them up on this and I was thrilled to see that if we had bought one of their family London Zoo entry vouchers for £76 (based on 2 adults and 2 kids), we would have been making a great saving against the advance ticket price for the same, direct with the zoo. A saving of just over £14 on an off-peak day and nearly £20 for a peak weekend date. No worrying about peak and off-peak with the BuyAGift voucher though, that can be used any time for 10 months from purchase.

I've worked with and bought BuyAGift vouchers before, as you can often find really good deals. I've made sure I am signed up for their newsletters and then I get to know when there are deals like 10 or 15% off. One of my favourite deals to buy when there are special discounts on, is the Prezzo 3 course meal and a glass of wine for 2 people.

Tween taking a photo of a bird

I was pleased to find that using our BuyAGift voucher was super easy too. Sometimes you have to convert your voucher online and book in advance, but not so with the London Zoo one, we literally had to turn up to the gate and exchange it for entry. It was really easy.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

What does the Future Hold? Going back to my Catering Roots?

Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash

As I turn 46, I find myself thinking about my life and what has passed. What I'm doing now and what the future might hold. I've recently taken on a new part-time job and I'm very much enjoying doing that for two days a week, along with my freelance work, for another two days a week. These commitments still give me time to volunteer, shop, exercise and be available for the kids too.

I've definitely got a good balance right now and being in a Christian environment is the right thing for me at the moment, but I do have those times when I pass the seafront hotels in Eastbourne and I wonder if the future might take me back to my hotel and catering roots. At age 14 I decided that I wanted to be a hotel manager, I'd been inspired by my Grandad who was a chef in the navy and then worked as a chef and catering manager in many local places. 

From the minute I left school I was training for my future, I went to college and trained to be a hotel manager, and I took my chefing qualifications as well. I then went to Uni and did a Hospitality degree, knowing I'd be a hotel manager when I left, and I was. I had a couple of years with Friendly Hotels as a Trainee Manager, learning the trade from the bottom up, adding to my work experience that started when I was 13 years old.

Monday, 12 August 2019

Ways to use your Smartphone to create a better Financial Future for Yourself

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Most of us spend hours on our smartphones. We have become very reliant on them. So much so that smartphone separation anxiety has become an actual condition. We love these little devices and would find it hard to live without them.

Yet, most of us are only scratching the surface when it comes to what our phones can do for us. As you will see below, with the help of the right apps you can start to build a more financially secure future for yourself and your family. Sounds good, right?

Invest on the fly
Using this investment app, you can keep track of the investments you already have. But, perhaps more importantly, it also enables you to invest on the fly. So, for example, if you get a bonus from work, you can immediately identify a way to invest that cash. This will stop you from frittering that bonus away over the weekend.

Track what you are spending
Managing your day to day spending is critical if you want to stay out of debt. Knowing how much the essentials of life cost and budgeting accordingly can easily be done using a money management app. One of the best ones on the market is Mint.

As well as letting you set and stick to a budget, the Money Dashboard app has several additional features built-in. For example, alerts that tell you when your bills are due.

Saturday, 10 August 2019

More Summer Reasons to be Cheerful #R2BC

I'm really enjoying the summer and I hope you are too. I think it helped immensely that I had a whole week without any children! My hubby and I had a great time, visiting a National Trust park, going our for dinner, seeing a Tina Turner tribute act, going to the cinema and getting coffee! It has been bliss and shhh, no I didn't actually have time to miss them!

The kids all had a great time away as well. The girls were at our church youth camp, with around 8000 other people and JJ was with my parents.

Time to just read and snuggle with the cat


Tuesday, 6 August 2019

10 Ways to get your Teen Away from their Screen this Summer

Tween girls feeding ducks

We're fully into the summer holiday now and I'm sure you might have heard the dreaded words 'I'm bored' so far. No matter what, every kid seems to get in this rut and I've always believed that my kids need to break through the boredom barrier. It's good for them to be bored for a little while, as that is when they engage their creative mind and start to think laterally about what they used to or could do.

It's so easy for teens (especially boys) to get stuck in a rut and end up endlessly playing computer games, surfing the web or getting immersed into social media but we all know that too much of it isn't good for us, on so many levels - our physical health, our mental health and our ability to converse and communicate with others.

Here are a few ideas that aren't going to break the bank, that may just help you get your teen away from their screen. Of course, you have to be realistic, they probably aren't going to thank you initially, as they think they want to spend 24/7 glued to their phone or laptop.

1.  Volunteering / Work Experience
This one will depend on the age of your teen and realistically it probably should have been sorted out before now, but whats friends or family do you have who they could accompany to work for the day? My son has done voluntary work gardening, learning maintenance tasks, working in a cafe and marshaling traffic. Each has been great experience for him and provided something different to his skill set.

Don't just assume your teen is too young or that they shouldn't be working yet (childhood is for fun) these kind of educational days can excite, inspire and develop your teen.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

Summer Reasons to be Cheerful #R2BC

Morning all, I hope everyone is well and enjoying the summer holidays. Reasons to be Cheerful is back with me for the month of August and I'm hoping to be a cheery example and inspire you to share all those things (big and small) that have made you smile, if only for a moment. Life isn't always good but there are always glimmers of hope there, when you are brave enough to look for them.

A Fabulous few days in Kent
Last week we had 3 nights away in Whitstable before the busy summer kicked off for my husband at work. It was really great as we were only 90 minutes away from home, but it was far enough to be totally new and a lot of fun. We loved spending time on the local beaches as the sun went down.


Thrills at Dreamland, Margate
We received free wristbands to enjoy the day at the Dreamland theme park and we had such a great time. It was far too hot but that didn't put the girls off going on so many rides! We all truly loved it there and would definitely visit again.  I've written a review over here.


We're Kid Free!
The girls are away at a camp with our church and JJ is at my parents this week, so dh and I have had the house to ourselves. We been out to dinner, coffee and the theatre. It's been very nice, if a little unusual!

We've still got nearly five weeks left of the summer holidays and lots of fun things planned, as well as some down time for chilling. I plan on having a fabulous time!

Come and Join In!

I'd love to read your Reasons to be Cheerful and it is as easy as 1, 2, 3 to join in -

1. Link up a post about something that is making you super happy/ grateful. It can be in this style or it can be anything you like - a recipe, a tutorial, a from the heart, a list - it's your blog, you choose

2. Add the #R2BC badge onto your post or blog so that people can easily find the linky and join in too if they fancy

3.  Share the love. This is the really important bit. Please don't just link and run, comment on at least a couple of posts and why not share with #R2BC too?

I'll stop by all linked up posts to comment and I'll share on twitter too


R2BC at Mummy from the Heart

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Sharing my Experience of Switching my Bank Current Account

Photo by Nick Pampoukidis on Unsplash

After 35 years with HSBC (formally Midland Bank) my husband and I have just switched our current account, in fact all our accounts, to another provider. I have to admit that it was pretty daunting, we’ve been with them a very long time and know how they work. The easiest thing would have been to remain with HSBC for another 35 years, but to be frank we didn’t feel they were valuing us and with a sudden change in interest rates for our savings and a naff interaction with one of their personal bankers in the branch we felt it was time to take our business elsewhere.

I suspect there are many people in the same situation as us, wondering if there is something better out there but avoiding thinking about it, as moving a current account feels pretty big and scary. Who wants to set up all those standing orders, direct debits, and transfer details again?

Great news, you don’t have to. Banks and building societies in the UK make it very easy for you to switch your current account. You might have switched one of your utilities in recent years using a switch service and it is almost as easy as that! Take a look on the Current Account Switch website and see if your current bank or building society is signed up to the guarantee and thus making it easy. At a glance it looked like it was all the big high street ones I know.

Our move was from HSBC to Nationwide and this gave us and a friend a £100 welcome bonus each as they recommended us. It also means we are now part of the Nationwide Building Society and we get members rights, such as preferential savings rates. Another factor for us is that the Nationwide is the only bank or building society that still has a branch in our local town. All the others are closing theirs and moving away from personal service, but I can still bank a cheque or get an appointment when I need one and Nationwide have made a commitment to keep their high street branches open.

I'm not here to sell Nationwide to you though this isn't a sponsored post, I just thought it would be good to share my experience and reassure others how easy this process can be. Remember that you have to switch your account to one with the same holders name and a joint account cannot become a single one, and vice versa.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

So much Fun at Dreamland, Margate (Review)

Dreamland event area
Central Event Area/Food Court

Earlier this week we had a few days away as a family in Kent. We had a wonderful time and the weather was amazing. On Wednesday we headed to the seaside resort of Margate to visit Dreamland, an amusement park that I hadn't visited for around thirty years.

I have to admit, that with exception of the entrance, I didn't recognise any of it. My memory of Bembon Brothers (as it was called then) was of the massive Looping Star roller coaster, that I was too scared to go on (I looked after the bags) and the Mary Rose ride that my Mum went on and vowed 'never again'! I was astounded to hear that Dreamland will turn 100 on 3rd July 2020 and at the moment they are running a public FB group to find the best 100 memories and photos to share. Check it out and join if you have memories of years gone by to share. 

I think the reason I didn't recognise the park is that it looks so much better now than my memories of it. It was very stark, with lots of metal and concrete back then, but now it is bright, fresh, clean and full of greenery.  I'll say from the offset that we had a great visit to Dreamland and Miss E said that if she lived locally she'd definitely get annual membership so she could go every week. She really is our daredevil child!


Dreamland drop ride
Miss E on the Dreamland Drop

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Loving our Trespass Event Shelter (Review)

Trespass event shelter at sunset

For the last six years we've lived in the most amazing place. We have 220 acres available to us, much of which was designed by Capability Brown. People come here to take walks and admire the beauty; we have three lakes, a couple of forests, a prayer garden, formal lawns, an Orangery and a walled kitchen garden.

Life really is rich here, beyond any dream we ever had of anywhere we expected to live. But there is one downside - we don't have any private outside space. We can't hang our washing out, nor hide away when the day gets too much. The girls play out in the courtyard and in the main that is fine but there are guests coming through, volunteers heading to their houses and the neighbours kids playing as well.

For a long time we've just wanted the option to sit out as a family and enjoy time, just as us. Or for the girls to be able to play a game together without always having to have younger children involved. Well the answer has arrived and I am so pleased to have purchased a Trespass event shelter from Argos, for the price of £129.99 (and £3.95 if you wish for it to be delivered to your home).

Inside the Trespass event shelter

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Happy, Happy Birthday Girls!


Morning friends, for my benefit and yours, I'm bringing you a Reasons to be Cheerful post, so we can both get a dose of much needed positivity.

End of Term
As I type this I am just waiting for the kids to all arrive home from school, they have a half day and it's the end of term. I am so pleased that school is over for practically seven weeks. They really need this break and I really need at least one or two mornings a week when I don't have to get up at the crack of dawn and be on form!

Off to Whitstable
We have lots of fun things going on over the summer, starting with a few days break in Whitstable next week. We will be heading to Dreamland, Margate and also the Dockyard, Chatham, as well as lots of other fun times that are not yet planned. It's good for me to go with the flow. Of course going away does mean I need to have a good clean this weekend, as one of our volunteers is coming to stay to look after the cat.


Happy 12th Birthday Girls
This week the girls turned 12 and they had an enjoyable birthday. They were thoroughly spoilt and are now proud owners of a new phone each and then Saturday we are off to Brighton for them to have a good shop with the money they received. JJ will be pleased to avoid the shopping and he will be at Lewes Police Headquarters for the day joining in with some training with cadets.

Family Fun Afternoon
Last weekend there was a family fun afternoon at church and it was a nice, chilled event. We enjoyed time with friends, a BBQ and some fun games.

Prize for my JJ
I went to school this week to watch JJ receive a prize for mathematics. It is a subject he really enjoys and is naturally gifted in and I feel very proud of that, as it is not one I ever did well in at school. We then enjoyed a pizza together whilst the girls were at a youth BBQ.


He also came home with his prefects tie and badge this week, ready for year 11 duties. I can't believe he'll be taking his GCSE's next May, time goes far too fast!

Summer Ball
I better head off as I have a couple of jobs to do before I take the girls to their summer ball at youth club tonight. They'll be eating, dancing, playing and having a powder paint fight and I'll be serving the food and washing up, something isn't fair there! lol

Enjoying time Outdoors
Anyone who has been reading my blog for a while will know we live in the most amazing place, but the one downside is that we don't have any outside private space. This has been becoming harder and harder for me, as I love to be out in the fresh air, but despite however nice my neighbours kids are, I just want to be alone. So I got an event shelter, one with removable sides and I've been so enjoying just having some private space outdoors.


I hope you have a great week ahead.

Becky over at Lakes Single Mum is out host for the month of July.  Head over and check out more cheery reads.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Advice from my 11 year old Twins about Starting Secondary School

Back to school flat lay
Photo by Matt Ragland on Unsplash

This time last year I had two very excited 10 year old's living with me. They couldn't wait (on the one hand) for their school year to finish and to be a step closer to starting at secondary school. But of course they were also a little sad about losing contact with the friends who were going to go to different schools.

If you've got a child about to start secondary school this coming September you'll probably relate to what I've said and will know this is a time of change, worries and uncertainty, as well as great excitement.

I asked my girls to share their experience and give me some tips of what helped them make this transition and to settle in to their new school. So here are tips from my tweens to yours, hand the laptop over now -

Before you Start

*  If your school has an option to attend some summer classes to meet other new pupils and find out how the school works, make sure you take the opportunity to attend as you'll be ahead of many others on your first formal day and will feel much more confident.

*  Make sure you get the right uniform. You might want something different to what they state but it won't be worth the defaults or maybe detentions that you could end up with.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Passing on a Love of Photography


Since I was young I have enjoyed taking photos and making albums full of memories. At University I had photo collages on my wall, I'd make them as gifts for others and then once I got my first digital camera back in 2001 I took all the wedding photos for my friend of her marriage in Cyprus. It was such a delight choosing the best photos from the hundreds I had taken and presenting her with an amazing keepsake album as my wedding gift to her.

Looking back, I didn't really have any skill and I never had a very good camera to use. It was only once my blogging became more professional and I started to attend conferences that I knew I had to up my game. So in June 2013 after the BritMums conference I headed to a big department store I trust and asked for some advice, they sent me packing with my very first Panasonic Lumix (Professional) Mirrorless Camera.

Mirroless cameras were still fairly new on the mass market back then and many people had no idea why I had gone for one of them rather than a classic DSLR camera, but I just loved the smaller and lighter weight camera body. I still had the capacity for changeable lenses and full user adjustability but I didn't have to carry a heavy or cumbersome camera. My Panasonic Lumix DMC G5 is still serving me well six years later.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

9 Top Tips for Visiting Windsor Castle, Berkshire

External Windsor Castle view

Last week my Mum and I visited Windsor Castle, this is the second time I have visited and I thought I'd share some tips for visiting this super busy tourist attraction. Windsor Castle is a very grand example of one of the Queens official residences in the UK, and from what I understand she chooses to spend many of her private weekends there. So if you're then on a weekend check if the flag is flying! You never know, you might glimpse her riding her horse one morning if the weather is fine.

Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, having been founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, it has since been the home of 39 monarchs and thus has a very good pedigree! It's also still used for many state occasions and ceremonies, so when you visit it does feel very special, as if you could have been at the wedding of Harry and Megan! lol

Windsor Castle garden view

When visiting somewhere like Windsor castle that has international appeal for Royal fans, it is best to be organised and plan your day in advance. Here are my top tips -

1.  Book your tickets in advance
We skipped a 40 minute queue when we visited last week, as we had our tickets and could join the short queue (6 people) at the booking office. The queue went right back to the end of the street by the Queen Victoria statue (this was at 11.30am). Make sure to check the website for any changes to opening hours and days, as they can change due to royal requirements, and you don't want to be disappointed on the day.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Reasons to be Cheerful: End of Term, the Sun and Time with Mum


Joining in with Becky for Reasons to be Cheerful.  It's been another good week so I need to celebrate and make sure I record all the things making me feel grateful.

The End of Term
We still have a couple of weeks left but it is definitely on wind-down. The end of term exams have finished, the kids all seem to be without homework, JJ's had a couple of good taster days at college, ready to make a decision of where he wants to attend in the Autumn and the girls have a trip to a zoo Monday. JJ is also starting work experience for a week very soon.


Time with my Mum
It's my Mum's birthday and so I took a couple of days to go and stay with her and my Dad. We had a lovely time, eating good food, seeing Rocketman, visiting Windsor Castle and having afternoon tea as we sailed on the Thames. I also got two days free of cooking, cleaning up and washing.  Wish me luck when I get home Saturday, we'll see what the house looks like!

I love this photo as it is part of a series when mum was larking around and laughing so much!

The Sunshine!
Yes, I am a tad pale and I do get burnt easily. It's also not the easiest in the heat when you are my size, but I really can't moan as it has been just lovely. In fact I'm sat in my parents garden with the laptop writing this now. I've enjoyed Pimms on the bench outside my house, read my book out, supervised the girls at the lake, chatted to neighbours and tomorrow we have an event shelter (gazebo type thing) arriving so I can get some shade outside!


That's it, back to basics, a classic Reasons to be Cheerful 1, 2, 3.....  post!  Just like in the good old days when this linky first started.

I'm linking up with Becky at Lakes Single Mum as she is the host for this month.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Hooray for Summer - 2019 Bucket List


I'm very excited that summer has finally arrived. There are only three weeks until the kids break up from school and then all the real fun can begin!

As I was thinking about summer I thought it might be fun to do a bucket list, I think its been a few years since I last did one. I'm working in my new job two days a week this summer, so I'll have to be creative how I fit in all the fun that I want to have, as there will still be my freelance work to do as well. Luckily the girls have various church camps that they'll get involved with over 3 or 4 weeks of the summer, so they won't have time to be bored.


Here's a few things I really want to do over the summer holiday -

Planning The Perfect Family Holiday To Singapore

Image Source
{This is a collaborative post}

You probably haven’t considered Singapore as a family holiday destination because Southeast Asia is usually associated with backpacking and hostels. But Singapore is actually a great destination that is ideal for families. It gives you the opportunity to experience a culture that is so completely different from what you would find in most typical family destinations which is important because travel is a great educational experience for your kids. The city state of Singapore, just off the coast of Malaysia, is incredibly safe and it’s a fairly simple place to get around, even though it’s a bit of a culture shock. It has a very multicultural population and you’ll find a great mix of traditions and cultures from around Asia so it’s the ideal introduction to the region if you have never been there before. It’s also very tourist friendly and the locals are very welcoming and helpful to visitors. 

If you’re looking for something a bit different for your next family holiday, Singapore is a great choice. Here are a few tips to help you plan the perfect trip. 

When To Visit 
One of the best things about Singapore is that there isn’t really a bad time to visit. Obviously, you want to go when the weather is nice which isn’t a problem in Singapore because it’s nice all year round. It has consistently warm weather all year with an average temperature of around 27 degrees, but it can feel a lot hotter than that when it’s particularly humid. Rain is always a possibility so you can’t really avoid it but if you spend a week out there, it’s likely that it will be warm most of the time. 

When it comes to the prices of hotels and flights etc. the prices are pretty much the same for most of the year. Singapore is a hub for international business so people are visiting all year round and the prices shouldn’t change too much. However, there are a few exceptions to that rule. November through to January will be a little more expensive because of the Chinese New Year and June and July are often popular because there are some other festivals going on. But even then, the prices won’t change drastically so you can plan your trip whenever is most convenient for you. 

Friday, 28 June 2019

The Importance of Gratitude #R2BC


I'm really pleased to be sat here writing a Reasons to be Cheerful post. Without being conscious that I was, this week I have been counting every blessing and have been reminded of the importance of gratitude. When I first started #R2BC back in 2011 it was because I needed to look at the good in my life and to reset to be content and grateful for what I had. It really worked for me and I truly believe that the two main keys to contentment are being happy with what you have and not seeking more and more, as well as being grateful.

So here we go with this weeks dose of positivity. The things I am feeling super grateful for right now are -
  1. Blue skies and sunny days
  2. The air conditioning in my car
  3. That my house stays cool, even in crazy hot weather as we have 1ft thick walls!
  4. A fun festival in the grounds of where I live last Sunday
  5. JJ being made a Prefect for year 11 and getting an end of year award for maths
  6. Getting myself two gorgeous dresses from Maine at Debenhams today, they should have been £75 and I got them for £40. Bargain!
  7. I had a great chat with dh this morning, whilst we had a coffee after both having our hair cut
  8. We're trying out a new church on Sunday morning
  9. I'm still enjoying my work and if I go in early, even after a 45 minute drive I can still be home by 5pm
  10. Taking the girls swimming in the lake with lots of other people from our community after work
  11. The roses here are beautiful at he moment
  12. The most yummy piece of carrot cake
  13. Loads of new international volunteers where I live, and the wonderful interaction my girls are having with them
  14. Miss M has performed at school in the choir five times this week for the new year 7 intake evenings

How To Spend 5 Days In NYC

Photo Credit: Clay Banks at Unsplash
{This is a collaborative post}

As you may know, travelling can be great for the soul. But not only that, it can be great for your family dynamic too. Because when you travel together, you get to spend some valuable time together too. And not only that, but you get to make great memories too. This is why it’s great to go to new and adventurous places together, like New York City.

It’s easy to think that NYC isn’t the place for a family trip, but it certainly can be. There’s a lot going on in the city for families and kids can get just as excited over the magic of the big apple as you do! We definitely want to head there as a family in the not too distant future, Im just savign up at the moment.

Here’s how to spend five glorious days there -


Day One: Check In & Explore
Your first day can be a bit slow after a long flight; you just want to get settled in. No matter what time you arrive, make sure that you check into your hotel and try to adjust to the new time zone right away. Time is precious, so sticking with NY time is crucial. You’ll find that heading out to explore helps here.


Day Two: Sightseeing
When you wake up on day two, you may feel a little jet lagged, but you’ll also want to ensure that you’re able to make the most of the day. So push through and plan a day’s sight-seeing! There are lots of different family-friendly attractions in NYC that you can explore, along with the most notable. So think about the things that will make your time here as memorable as possible. Talk to friends who have visited before and check out family blogs for great ideas.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

A Girl's First Love Stays with Her Forever #PethoodStories

Teen girl and her labrador
Me, aged 15 with Toby Jack
{This is a collaborative post}

Every woman remembers their first love. I could say it was my Dad, but I think that's a given. No, my first love arrived into my life when I was 14-years-old and he was gorgeous. The most handsome boy I'd ever seen, this glossy and silky gingery-blond hair, a massive smile and he was content to just be with me. Hardly any demands, just unconditional love. A love that lasted for thirteen years.

We went through some interesting times together, Toby and I. Times when I deserted him for other boys, times when I was too busy to spend as much time with him as he deserved, and times when I slept late in the morning and forgot to get up and walk him (thankfully mum didn't)! But he always forgave me. He was always happy to offer me cuddles and a gorgeous shoulder to cry into when I needed it.

I can't tell you the amount of times that I cried to Toby, he just listened, he never made me feel bad and he never answered back. Of course, that's because he was a dog, a Labrador, but not just any ordinary dog as far as I am concerned. He, for me, is the best dog that ever lived and I don't think any other dog will ever take that place of my first love, of my bestest friend.

I look back at old photos now and I chuckle to myself, he was so placid and my brother and I used to never let up, always looking to have fun with him. Just look at the photos below to see for yourself.

Saturday, 22 June 2019

An abundance of Gratitude - Family, Walks and Time to Be

This was the beautiful sight that greeted us as we arrived back from a meal with
our pastoral group on Thursday night

Hello friends, so sorry I didn't get an #R2BC post live last Saturday.  Time totally ran away with me and as I had my parents staying I figured it was more important to spend time with them, than fret over a blog post. I know you understand.

As always I have so much to be grateful for -

Family to Stay
As I mentioned my parents came to stay at the cottage we have onsite here and this meant hubby and I got a night out to see the new X men film at the cinema, as well as going to a bible study and new church on our own. It's so great when they are beloved babysitters available.

JJ was happy to spend a night looking after their dog whilst they went to the cinema and the girls stayed up there and it feels like a mini holiday. We didn't do anything major whilst they were here as some days the weather was rubbish, but it is just good to spend time with them, chatting going out for meals and charity shop browsing for Mum and I.

We had a yummy lunch at Tottingworth Farm cafe in Heathfield
My new Job
I'm still loving my new job, I've done three weeks now, but realistically that is just 6 days. In my head I want to know everything now and be able to get on with it, but I know my expectations are too high! I'm enjoying getting out, doing something different, challenging my mind and having some time to myself in the car each way.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

National Trust: East Riddlesden Hall, Keighley, Yorkshire

Front of East Riddleden Hall

In half term we travelled up to Yorkshire to stay near Bradford, We had a lovely time travelling around and exploring the area. We had one day where we just didn't fancy a long journey so we stayed close by and headed to the nearest National Trust site for a bit of culture and outdoor space. East Riddlesden Hall was the closest, situated in Keighley, West Yorkshire. We wasn't sure what to expect as this isn't the biggest site, but actually it was really nice. The staff were friendly, interested and knowledgeable and there was plenty to do.


As soon as we arrived the kids spotted the bird feed for 50p a bag, so we all headed out to the lake and all my family enjoyed feeding the ducks. This simple act always seem to calm down my crazy girls and focus them on something nurturing. Even JJ loves to feed them, although he is always a little more vigorous in his feeding style! lol  I was happy to find some hale bales to sit on and just enjoy the dry weather and watch my family.