Friday 30 November 2012

2013 New Bloggers Fortnight - call for recommendations

For the last two years in January/ February I have hosted new bloggers fortnight and I think the title gives away what it is really........ but in case you are not sure, read on...

Basically I ask fairly new bloggers (well those who have been doing it about a year or less) to write a guest post to be published here on Mummy from the Heart. All the posts are directed at new bloggers and aim to share what they have learnt in their time blogging. 

So in a nutshell - advice for new bloggers by new bloggers!

In 2011 I had some awesome guest posters, the likes of now established bloggers - Inside the Wendy House, Ghost Writer Mummy and SAHM Loving It amongst others.

Then in 2012 I welcomed DorkyMum, Geek Mummy and Seasider in the City as well as many more to introduce new subjects and their own personal take on blogging and what it means to be new to the scene.

The topics covered in these two years have been vast - joining in with linkys and meme, building relationships, blogging anonymously, establishing your identity, the stress of being a newbie. paid content on your blog, blogging myths, running giveaways, reviewing with integrity, geeky questions etc.

Want to join in?
So how do you fancy posting here in the two weeks commencing 28th January 2013?

Please leave me a comment if you think you are a seriously good new parenting blogger and you have a subject matter that you want to blog on, that you think will interest and engage other new bloggers.

I hope to welcome at least 10 guest writers during the two week period and at the moment I only have about 3 people that I know I want to approach an confirm arrangements with. I hope you would find it a worthwhile experience to guest post here and that it might just direct some new readers your way.

If you leave me a link to your blog or a recommendation for a new blogger that I should approach then I'll come visit them and have a good read and get to know their blog later in December and then I'll approach people to set up the guest writers.

If you want to take a look at the variety of posts written for New Bloggers Fortnight in 2011 and 2012 then check out the roundup posts linked to here.

Many of you will know I am off to Belarus on Tuesday and as such please don't tweet to FB me any links as I am likely to miss them.  Just leave them as a comment and I will definitely come visit and comment.

Thanks all, Mich x

Thursday 29 November 2012

Simple Reasons to be Cheerful - Week 48

Hello all,

Lovely to see you here, I'm just back to keeping it simple this week and sharing a few things that have made me smile this week.

*   The visa came through for my trip to Belarus next week with Operation Christmas Child.  I just need to get some currency Friday and pack and I think I'm all ready. No stressing this time and no time to think about being nervous!

*   I hit 4000 twitter followers last night.  I was trying to fathom why this makes me smile, as logically I know it won't change my life and it doesn't mean I'm any better than I was before but I realised it does mean that I can disseminate my message just that bit further and that is a good thing.

*   I made some animal Christmas decorations with my girls yesterday after school and we had such good fun.

*   This weekend before I go away the kids will write their letters to Santa and we will decorate the trees - a nice coordinated one for me and one they can put whatever they like on, you know the type - more is definitely more!

*   The kids have friends coming round after school on Friday and I am actually looking forward to it.  The little ones are bringing their Mum and she seems a really nice lady, so I'll enjoy getting to know her more.

Over to you - what is making you grateful/ happy/ cheerful right now?  Write your post, add in the blog hop code and then go visit some fellow happy peeps.  Tweet with #R2BC if you fancy but most of all have fun and share the comment love.  I'll aim to come and visit you all before I head off on my travels early nest week.

I have two super guest hosts lined up for the next 2 weeks whilst I am a busy girl. They are both relatively new bloggers so please do show them some blogger love and support them -

Week 49 - Thursday 6th December - Kat at Kat A Pillar (formally Kat Sighs)
Week 50 - Thursday 13th December - Sally at Pressies by pebbles

Link up and let me tell you something nice I learnt yesterday from Brent Riggs, the guy who developed an downs Linky Tools. Each time you enter a link up you get a follow backlink for your blog, so that's all good for building your pagerank!

Wednesday 28 November 2012

My new project #RealLifeRocks

I love my blog, I really do - the release, the doors it opens up for me and the chance to share.

I also love the parenting blogging community - the way we pull together when we need to, the chance to speak to like minded people, having the privilege of reading snippets of peoples lives and of course making wonderful real life friends.

However, I'm feeling a bit burnt out.  I'm not unhappy with blogging, not at all but I am just a bit worn down and tired.  The last few months have been really full on, what with travelling to Ethiopia and then going to Belarus next week too. Add those trips into an already busy life and that makes for a worn out Mich!

So for now I am going to take some well earned R and R and focus on my new project....

It is called #RealLifeRocks and it means that I will prioritise what I have time for around my real life. The first time I thought about a priority order, I came up with this  -
  • God
  • Dh and our children
  • My wider family, including my friends who are like family
  • Any neighbour who needs my help
  • My paid work
  • My hobbies, of which blogging is one of them
But then it occurred to me I had forgotten one pretty major thing - me! I am not particularly good at taking care of myself and it is one of the things I need to do while I am full in the swing of Operation #RealLifeRocks, so I better add myself in there somewhere, so that I make sure I sleep enough, eat well, exercise and take down-time to relax.

I'll add me in, but I'm a bit undecided if I should come straight after God or after Dh and the kids. Actually thinking more I suppose I just need to be on a par with them in that number two slot.

One of the areas of focus I have decided to concentrate on take over the next couple of months is to listen more than I talk. This is in prayer, real life and blogging. So I intend to get out there and do lots of blog reading/ commenting and not half as much blog writing or publishing. I think the discipline of only doing a maximum of about 3 posts a week (or none if I feel that way inclined) will be really freeing for me.

I'm not leaving blogging, don't think that.  I'm just toning it down and making it work for me and what I need in my real life right now.

I know from experience that bloggy breaks work wonders for me. I need the time to have more moments like this -

I hope you'll keep reading.  I certainly intend to come and see you, if you want a return visit then leave me your URL below and I'll hop over once I am back from Belarus.

God bless, Mich x

Sunday 25 November 2012

Keeping warm with Simply Piste

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post asking for your advice about how to keep warm when I travel to Belarus in just over a weeks time. As I have never really skied (once when I was 13 in Scotland and there was a distinct lack of snow, so it doesn't really count!) nor properly travelled to a very cold country I am all new to this and was not equipped in the least.

The thing I kept hearing from friends in the know was that if my hands and feet were warm I would be able to cope. I was really pleased to hear this as my contact at Simply Piste had agreed to help me out and send me a few items to help make this trip a happy one.

I received a beautiful pair of Dakine Lynx ski gloves. They retail at £25.00 at Simply Piste and this is a good price, the average I found them for on the web was about £33.00 for this same model. They are specially made to not only keep me warm but dry also and if I was skiing they have rubberised palms to ensure a good grip.  There is even a little pocket inside where a heat pack can be inserted, never heard of that before - genius!  From a novice point of view I like these gloves as the lining is super soft and they come in S, M and L so I could find a pair that fitted me really well. They look stylish and have an adjustable band around the wrist to help with fit and also a draw string on the top of the glove so I could ensure that no snow would get inside.

They also sent me some snazzy ski socks from snow-tec and my friend Sue has already asked me if she can have them when I return from my trip!  The socks are knee high purple with big white stars on them and are 50:50 wool/ acrylic for the best comfort and breath ability. I have to be honest and say that I never knew so much science could go into a pair of socks.  I just needed some that will keep me warm and these will certainly do that but also be ultra comfortable too, due to the technical supa-fit zones which provide comfort and support, especially if I was wearing hard ski boots for skiing for snowboarding. These socks retail at £12.95 per pair.

Obvioulsy not me modelling this jacket and sadly not my husband either!

Then lastly I was super happy to receive a fleece jacket from the North Face. I have obviously seen this brand name before but being as I am so completely not sporty I have never worn or bought them.  I knew it was a good brand but after having worn this jacket for just 3 or 4 days I am in love and I totally understand that this is a quality product which comes at a price. Being a larger lady I opted for a men's fleece jacket so I could have a really good fit on my body, this did of course mean that the arms are a bit long but when I am in Belarus and it is really cold this might be a bonus and for now in the UK, I have just turned the cuffs back as they are slightly elasticated and stay OK that way.

The jacket is light to carry and wear and as such I did not think it would be very warm but I was wrong.  I have been wearing it this week in 5 degree temperatures and that has been enough, I did not need a coat over it. This is really encouraging for me, it means in Belarus I'll be able to wear a light top, my fleece and ski jacket and be super warm.  The fleece fabric appears to be built up in layers to ensure the wind cannot get though and there is also a cinch cord at the bottom to ensure the cold does not get in that way either.  I am really happy with it.  This mid-layer fleece retails for £79.95.

There is a great selection of items available for winter sports and weathers, including lots of super ski jackets from Simply Piste. If you need to kit yourself out this winter it is worth taking a look. Delivery starts at £2.99 for standard delivery and you will be able to track your parcel and kept fully in touch with what is happening. I have received good service from Simply Pistes sister company (Simply Swim) before and was really pleased and again this time things went smoothly.  It appears I am not alone in being happy with the goods and service received as I checked on TrustPilot and saw that Simply Piste has 188 reviews on there and an overall 9.5/10 rating - fantastic stuff!

Thanks so much for your help kitting me out for my trip Simply Piste, I am now feeling equipped and excited to travel!

Disclosure:  I received these products free of charge for the purpose of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Saturday 24 November 2012

I'll be praying for #Healing4Kerry at 10pm tonight (& every other day too)

Today I am giving over my blog to a lovely friend. A blogger who is warm and giving and well respected within our community.  Sadly the beautiful Kerry of Multiple Mummy is very ill at the moment and has been for some time now.

Kerry and I first developed a bond back in early 2011 when she was a brand new blogger and still on a blogspot address. We started to talk as she is a Mummy of twins and not just that, but she has an older child too, so her family are younger than mine but replicate mine in many ways. I guest posted for Kerry back in July 2011 and I must say I have been very remiss in having her back here, once she is well we will rectify that (if she wants to of course).

I finally met Kerry at CyberMummy in June 2011 and then again at a blogger event for Perform in November 2011. We have also seen each other a few times this year at events but she is one of those people that you do not have to see in real life to have a good old chat and a bit of fun with.

In short Kerry rocks!  Here is my prayer for Kerry today and every day -

You might have seen me post the other day that lovely Liska has put a call to action out to the parenting blogging community, so tonight at 10pm we will all join together to pray, meditate, send positive thoughts and such to demand #Healing4Kerry.

Kerry, Nick and your three beautiful children - we salute you!

With love, Mich xx

Photo montage shamelessly nicked from Liska.  Top photo shows Super Amazing Mum, Liska and Kerry.  The other photos are all Kerry before she had her gorgeous hair crop that we now know and love.

Friday 23 November 2012

I'm in the right place at the right time, doing just what I should be doing.

Wow, I have just spent the most exhilarating couple of hours in a long time. 

What was I up to you might wonder - something exciting like bungee jumping or skydiving? or something more subdued but still uber-exciting like hot air ballooning or having a spa at Champneys?

No, something very different from all of those things. What I got up to was only 20 minutes from my home, it didn't cost me a penny, I was mostly accompanied by ladies in their 30-60's and it took place in a Church Hall.  Bet I am sucking you in now, aren't I?  Sounds glamorous, yes?  Well, no it wasn't glamorous but it was truly fabulous and I felt very privileged to join this group of well-organised men and women for a couple of hours this morning and if I can sneak out tomorrow and leave my husband with the kids for a bit I might just head over there again tomorrow.

Shoebox checking
Today I joined the team of volunteers over at the Operation Christmas Child warehouse in Colney Heath, I was there to help them check the boxes and make sure they were packed with super goodies for the children to open in the receiving country. I spoke to ladies who said their church had been involved with this since the program started over 20 years ago, many of them had been doing it for all those years and for others this was the first or second year.  There were people who had travelled with OCC on distribution trips and there was so much passion in that room we could have fuelled the central heating without any electricity.

Take a look at the pictures and see just how organised it all is -

There were about 8 stations for people to be checking the boxes to make sure the contents were appropriate and according to what customs allow to enter the country.  There was then a box wrapping table, craft kit making table, cellophaning table to ensure things like soap and toothbrushes stay hygienic and box taping and age/ sex sorting tables so the approved boxes could be placed into cartons for shipping.

I know many people have heard rumours and are concerned about religious material being inserted into the boxes and  I can categorically confirm that no religious material in placed in the boxes before they are sealed with the official Samaritans Purse tape. Once this tape goes on the box is not opened again until the child opens it in the receiving country.

My job today was to check the boxes and I really enjoyed this.  As I have made boxes myself for years and co-ordinated at the kid's school for the last few years I have a good knowledge of what can and cannot go in the boxes and of course, it seemed a real shame to have to take things like bubbles and chocolate out of the box as they cannot be shipped but I did love it that the warehouse had made sure they had loads of extra soaps, toothbrushes and paste, stationary, cuddly toys and loads more to ensure that all the children receive a really full and well-balanced box.

Even if I had never taken part before it would have been easy as Jo, the organiser for this warehouse made sure I knew what I was doing.  There were do's and dont's stuck to every table and such a wealth of knowledge in the room. If you have never helped out at a warehouse before I would urge you to give it a go.  All you need is a willing pair of hand and a couple of hours. There are over 150 temporary warehouses set up across the UK each year from the beginning of November. You just email the Regional Manager for local contact details.

Preliminary trip meeting
I suppose another reason today felt so special is that yesterday I travelled to the UK head office of Samaritans Purse to meet Ruth and Nik who I will travel to Belarus with. It is now just 12 days until we fly out there! I have to admit that I have been so nervous about this trip and even at times I have thought about bailing out but my wonderful solid husband has reminded me that I must go where God wants me. He never gives us a load too heavy to carry.  I have been fretting a little as normally OCC take a journalist with them and this time around it is little old me! ekk

I could not have been made any more welcome yesterday though and was referred to as 'Michelle, the blogger' on numerous occasions. I came away from the meeting yesterday knowing it was right and while it does feel scary I am equipped and my desire to serve the Lord and to do my best will serve me and OCC well. Through God all things are possible. It truly feels amazing to know you are in the right place at the right time, doing just what you should be doing.

Yesterday gave me such a thirst to find out more whilst I am away.  I think Ruth and Nik are going to be so fed up with me asking them questions and tapping into their knowledge.  Ruth has worked for OCC since the early 1990s, even before it became part of Samaritans Purse and Nik is based in Belarus and he told me a couple of short stories of the type of things he hears in his everyday work and my heart was really warmed.  He talked of a young man finding a wife through OCC - the lady came to receive a shoe box for her child and they formed a friendship and ended up getting married and now that child has a loving mother and father.

I particularly loved hearing the story of Nik being in a school and asking the children what they knew about England. He felt sure that they would all cite the same answers he has heard time and time again - the Queen, football and the Beatles.  But no, on this occasion they both surprised and touched him with the answer of the Queen, football and Operation Christmas Child.  I saw the way this touched this true gentleman and I was reminded that it takes a very special sort of person to work for an organisation such as Samaritans Purse and to reach out to those who need assistance.

Just imagine what a life-changing experience I am going to have travelling with these two awesome people to do such a worthwhile job.

Thanks for following my journey.  I'll keep on blogging and the intention is that I will share live from Belarus while I am out there, by SoundCloud, video and written posts. There are even to be two live webcasts which I'll be involved in and I'll share the confirmed times for those soon.

Don't forget it is not too late to make a shoebox online - visit Shoebox World today!

Tell me, have you made a shoebox up yet?

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Reasons to be Cheerful - I'm off to Belarus... (Week 47)

As you read this I'll be over in Essex at the UK head office of Samaritans Purse, the charity behind the Operation Christmas Child initiative.  You have probably seen me blog about OCC over the last 3 or 4 years or maybe you have even taken part with your local school, toddler group or church. It is a lovely initiative that I really appreciate. Yes, of course, it is immensely important for us all to give towards life-saving food, water and vaccines and Samaritans purse are also involved with that kind of provision too but for me, I see no reason why we can not provide a little joy to some needy children at Christmas as well.

OCC makes me so cheerful today (and every day to be honest) -

*   Firstly because every shoebox that is sent abroad gives joy to a child who has little else. The giving of this simple gift is called faith in action. I get so cross when people keep citing that OCC is a bad thing, as it is a Christian initiative and one of the aims is to share the Gospel with the world. The Gospel is about the unconditional love of Christ and this is what happens when a box is handed over with no strings attached, that child feels worthy, happy and loved. Sharing the gospel does not mean that they are force-fed Christianity.

*   Secondly, my kid's school have put together 108 boxes to be sent to Mozambique and it really encourages me when a community pull together.

*   Thirdly, I travel in 13 days to Belarus with OCC to see first hand how the deliveries work and to blog about the places I visit and the children I meet.

*   Then lastly, I love that the shoeboxes present such an amazing opportunity to talk to my children about how other children are living in our world.  My children understand that they are really lucky and yes I get the questions about why Santa/ God allows poverty, war and injustice to happen and we have to have some really difficult and honest conversations but it is the right thing to do. In my opinion, my children should not go on believing that they are the centre of the world and can demand anything they desire.  We need to cultivate the responsible adults of the future after all.

Short and sweet this week. 

How are you all? I must apologise that I never made it to most of the linked up posts last week.  I have no idea where last week escaped to, all I feel like I do at the moment is chase myself and I never seem to be catching up right now!  I can't even promise that I'll come to visit you all this week as we are heading down to visit my Nan, she is still hanging on in there, 4 weeks after going into the hospice. Sadly I'm told she is now really depressed and fed up, I'm hoping that taking in a DVD of my kids that I have made will cheer her a little.

So over to you now, what is making you happy/ grateful this week?

Write your post, add in the blog hop code if you fancy and link up. Then go hopping around some blogs and leave some comment love and I'm sure others will do the same.

Review: Trespass Mens DEFIED Ski Jacket from M and M Direct

A short while back I reviewed some boots for my girls from M and M Direct and they were obviously pleased as they came back and asked me if I'd like to review anything else. I informed them I'm off to Belarus in December and that I did not have a suitable coat and maybe they could help with that and help they certainly did!

I am now the proud owner of a very smart Trespass mens ski jacket. You might wonder why I opted for a mans jacket, the reason are two-fold.  Firstly I am a larger lady and I often find that ladies sports type clothing only goes up to an 18 or 20,  I need a 22.  Then the second reason is that my husband can wear this coat when I return and it will get some good wear. Seems a shame for it to sit in my cupboard once I come back, it is hardly likely you will ever find me going skiing after all!

The coat that was sent to me has an RRP of £199.99 as it is a high performance coat but M and M Direct have it for sale at the super special price of £59.99.  I did a search on the internet and I could not find the same coat anywhere else for cheaper and of course M and M Direct's strap-line is 'Biggest Brands, Lowest Prices' and this sure does back that up.

The Technical Stuff

Trespass are a name I know and trust, as dh is a Cub Leader he has always had lots of outdoor clothing in our house and this is a regular name he buys. As I mentioned this coat is really top-of-the-range and if I am honest, an average girl like me is not even sure what all the technology used in this coat is about, but I'll share with you as I am sure you are more 'with it' than me.

Image Source
The waterproof reading is the height in millimetres this column would reach before starting to seep through. So, 15000mm is in fact 15 meters of water held back by the fabric
  • Trespass technical performance rated 100 jacket
  • Radium peak performance fabric incorporates tres-tex membrane technology and is Waterproof to 15000mm, Breathable to 8000mvp and Windproof too
  • The fabric is supple and durable with functional coats and surface treatments that mean they repel water and work with your layering system to draw moisture away from the body
  • All seams are taped to further improve wet weather protection
  • Water repellent zips when closed will ensure and you and your pockets stay dry in even the worst weather
  • Coldheat insulation is lightweight and has a soft lofted fibre layer to hold in your body heat
  • Communications pocket is included inside the jacket especially for your mobile or 2 way radio, the warm environment prolongs mobile battery life (as cold weather drains it)
  • Zipped underarm venting for when you go from outside to in but do not want to remove your coat
  • Volume adjustable hood (which you can zip off). Just look at the picture of me, it sure covers up a lot and keeps you warm

  • Numerous zipped pockets both inside and outside the coat and even in the arm, also includes a special pocket for your goggles if you need them
  • Adjustable storm cuffs and snug cuffs inside to ensure the cold air cannot get in
  • Utility D ring
  • Detachable Ski skirt (or snow seal system depending what you call it) with loops/ poppers to attach to your pants

100% polyamide shell, 100% polyester lining and padding.

What do I think?

So far I have only worn this coat on the school run and to watch JJ play football on a chilly Saturday morning so it has not been put through a full test yet.  Once I return from Belarus I'll update this review and talk through how it worked in the real cold! I have to say that I have no reservations from what I have seen so far.

The things I really like about this coat are -

  •  the magnetic flap which closes over the zip, so effective but really simple.
  • That there are tons of pockets, I won't even need a bag in Belarus.
  • The comfy fabric and how lightweight it is for the warmth it gives
  • The reflective panels, these will give me a lot of peace of mind when dh is wearing it on his cycle
M and M Direct's service

This is the second time I have used M and M Direct and I will definitely keep them as a staple for the future.  They have such a great range of stuff for the kids, dh and me and at really excellent prices.  I have mentioned to a few friends and they all seemed to know about this online store and I have not heard one grumble about them. 

I love the fact that if you spend £30 or more you can get free UK standard delivery and I have found their deliveries to be quick and efficient. There is also a straight forward exchange or return policy and everything is crystal clear on thew website, no hidden surprises, which is good.

I'll leave you with a closer look at the coat and some of the features.  I am one happy lady, Thank you M and M Direct.

Disclosure: I received this coat free of charge for the purposes of this review.  I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Monday 19 November 2012

Dear bloggers - be careful what you wish for....

In terms of the UK blogging scene I feel a bit like a Grandma now.  I have been hanging round like a bad smell since 2009 and this means I have been through quite a number of (both personal and bloggy) ups and down and seen lots of phases, linkys, memes, awards, spats and all the other stuff too.

You are probably aware that one human year is the equivalent to seven dog years, well I have a new ratio for you - one human year is the equivalent to 10 blog years. So, if you mature by 10 years for each year you have been around the blogging scene and I started blogging at age 36 that makes me now in excess of 70 years old and much wiser with it!

I thought it was high time I shared some of this worldly blogger wisdom with you and the biggest thing I want to share is to be careful what you wish for.  It is really easy as a new blogger to believe that the grass is greener on the side of the established blogger.

We often see new bloggers wishing that they -

  • could receive loads of comments on every post published
  • have thousands of page views per day
  • could hit the top of the parenting ranking charts
  • have an inbox full of PR emails
  • could attend the best events
  • are noticed on twitter by everyone and his dog, this of course results in a Klout score of about 92

But guess what? Blogging is a double edged sword.  For every plus that comes with one of those things listed above, there are the polar opposites too. And I have to be honest and say I get very fed up of those newer bloggers whining about the downsides of blogging once they start to get what they wished for. No-one promised roses remember!

We (me included in the early days and still sometimes when my insecurities raise their head) wish for the heady heights of blogger stardom. We want to be the best blog out there, the one that everyone loves to visit and chat about, we want to attend the glam parties with the big fish but I personally find it is all incredibly hard work and it takes a lot of effort to sustain.

It might be your bag to work your arse off to have the best blog out there and if it is, fair play, stop reading now as this is not for you.

If however, blogging is a great hobby - where you meet some friends, showcase your work, record wonderful family memories, receive a few perks and it does not dominate your life then keep on remembering that being really popular is bloody hard work. I promise you that if you get too tied up in the pursuit of bloggy stardom without thinking through the consequences then you might just end up very unhappy.

Image Credit

Let me share the other edge of the knife with you, the realism of the dream if you like -
You desire…. It feels ….
100's of comments like hard work, they all need responding to  & you should reciprocate. How many blogs can you get round in 2 hours do you reckon?  Pressure!
1000's of pageviews bloody good.... but you then have a taste for it and YOU MUST BLOG EVERY DAY!
to be top of the charts like even more work, you need to work out a plan & every day no fail - tweet, join in linkys, Triberr, google +, stumble, digg, pin, LAB & promote even more…  Oh and don't forget to help other bloggers, offer advice, write for other sites and offer your time for events too!
to receive all the best PR pitches 1. demoralising - as many address you as 'hey you', 'Dear Sylvia' (who is Slyvia?) etc & it takes hours to answer them all, as you want to remain professional.     2. like even more pressure as you end up over committing yourself and then resent the free crap you were sent and have to write about (OK it might not be crap, it might be worth £150 but do you need it?/ Will it make you happy?)
to attend the best events like it can't be achieved - you need to work, walk the dog, cook meals, look after the kids, do school drops and get in and out of London every other day - arrgghh!
to be the top tweeter out there like you can never have a holiday, as if you do your Klout score may just go down.  Oh well, who needs a rest anyway?
OK maybe I exaggerate a bit, but you get my point, yes?  Please don't moan about something that you desired. If it is making you unhappy and it is not for you then make a change. Take your name off lists, make it clear you do not want PR pitches, remove yourself from a ranking. Do what it takes to make yourself feel good and balanced again but please don't litter the places I visit with your unhappy or sarky posts about how PR's ought to read your blog before approaching you and how few people have commented on your blog recently.

Just stop and think to yourself what you can do about this because you cannot change them, only your reaction.

Blogging is a brilliant thing but it can take over your life and sometimes we all need to stand back and reflect. January will be my month for reflection and time out.

Anything you need to step away from right now?

Sunday 18 November 2012

When bloggers come together awesome things happen!

Those of us who are bloggers know the power we have as a collective.

Yes sometimes there are tiffs in our respective communities but when one of us puts out a call to action and raises awareness of a plight that needs us to all pull together, then we do. And as I said before awesome things happen. We see big companies giving refunds for their wrong doings, we see posts going live by the dozen as the word spread, we see donations rolling in for charities, we see virtual hugs and tears and we see jobs being created.

Then those of us who are Christians know the power of prayer.

Especially as a collective, the Bible tells us that when two or more people come together in the name of Jesus then He is among them. I believe He works miracles and right now we could do with a miracle please Lord.  One of healing for our dear friend Kerry.

You may have read about Kerry, back in July she had a brain hemorrhage due to an ruptured aneurysm and unfortunately she has suffered some setbacks in her recovery and rehabilitation.  Her husband has been amazing looking after their three beloved children.

Liska from New Mum Online has called for bloggers to give up their blog next Saturday and to post for Kerry. Then at 10pm on that evening (24th November) she has asked that we come together as a collective and use our power.  For me it will be about prayer and calling on the Lord, for you it might be positive thoughts, meditation or something else entirely.

If you use twitter, lets make some noise and use the hashtag #Healing4Kerry

Kerry is one awesome woman that I am proud to call my friend. I'll post about her more specifically next Saturday when I give my blog over to her.

For now I'll keep on praying for total healing for Kerry and peace and comfort for her family.

Will you join Liska and I next Saturday?

#SilentSunday - 108 boxes makes me super happy!

For more #SilentSunday pictures go and visit the linky on Love all Blogs and then hop around some blogs and leave some comment love and I'm sure you'll find people will come back and say hi to you too!

Have an amazing week, be blessed, Mich x

Saturday 17 November 2012

Butlins - Fantastic family holiday or dodgy old camp?

So I say to you Butlins and you think.......?

Go on be honest, what images does the word Butlins conjure up for you?

I asked that question to about 15 different friends and work colleagues this week and only one of them had actually visited Butlins in the last few years.  I was not at all surprised to find people talking about Hi-de-hi , the sit-com that aired back in the 1980's (Oh how I loved that program as a kid).  There was also lots of mentions of red coats, old wooden chalets and bingo.

OK, I can honestly say these people have the wrong idea.

JJ quite a few years back when he was still excited to meet Billy the Butlins Bear

My family have been to Butlins at least once a year since 2004, some years it has been as many as 3 times. As the children have grown older and we have to go in the school holidays it has become more expensive and as such we have had to cut down, but in the early days when we just had JJ and he was under 2 we stayed in Deluxe accommodation, half board for a 5 day/ 4 night break for under £200 for us all.  Butlins is superb value for families with young children who are happy to stay term-time.

Then here we are nearly 10 years later and I just did a quick search for a half board room from 20th May (so the weather should be nice) in Skegness for 4 nights for two adults and a one year old and it is just £213.34.  Fantastic value.  'What do you get included with that along with your food and accommodation?' I hear you ask. Everything you could want to be honest - splash waterworld, children's funfair, adult funfair, children's activities like puppet shows, softplay, evening entertainment - the list goes on and on.

'Ahh but what is the accommodation like?' I hear you shouting now, 'there must be a catch' you think to yourself.  But no, there is no catch, what you see is what you pay and you get all the fun included. I won't lie to you, some of the accommodation is basic, if you book a standard room you will not get anything glossy but it does what you need it to, it is clean, the beds are comfy, there is an equipped kitchen (if you have booked an apartment) and there is a TV.

We have stayed in standard, silver and deluxe accommodation over the years and I have been perfectly happy with them all.  Different times have demanded different things.  One type of accommodation I have never yet stayed in are the hotels at Bognor Regis, there are three of them nowadays, all just a bit different from each other.

I'm very excited to say that next May in the half term my family will be staying in the newest hotel at Bognor Regis, the Wave Hotel. This is very exciting as we are staying there as Butlins Ambassadors and we will be testing out the hotel and the rest of Butlins fully.  Please do not be fooled into thinking that because I am a regular Butlins customer that I won't be as honest as possible. I will be. I always believe that when I am given the responsibility for reviewing something it is extra important to be as honest as possible.  You will find a number of reviews on my Honest Mummy Reviews blog which demonstrate this point quite well. I will always be balanced and fair, giving a full and honest account of what we have seen and experienced.

Take a peek at the hotels at Bognor Regis -


I look forward to sharing my findings with you early next summer, for now why don't you take a peek on their site and see if there is anything that interests you.  I just did some random accommodation searches on the site and found that many breaks are better than half price in March next year.  I got a 5 day holiday up for £250.63 half board for a family of 4. That works out at just £15.62 per person per night - how can you quibble with that???

Leave me a comment and let me know your experience of Butlins, good or bad....

Butlins Goodies - Stocking Fillers Giveaway
As a little extra, I thought I would give away some nice Butlins goodies that have been sat in my cupboard since I won them at BritMums Live in June. My kids have too much already!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer:  I am being provided with a break for 6 people next May, half board in the Wave Hotel for the purposes of honestly reviewing Butlins and its facilities.  I have not been instructed what to write and as always I'll remain honest.

Friday 16 November 2012

Advice please - How do I stay warm in a very cold country?

As with most things when I need some knowledge, I  am turning to my super blog readers and asking you to share your wisdom with me, please.

In just under 3 weeks I fly to Belarus with Operation Children Child and it is going to be very cold there. The kind of cold that I am not used to, well I can remember it clocking -8 in my car one very cold night as I drove back from aerobics about 10pm a few years back but my warm car stopped that being an issue. In Belarus, it might be more like -8 during the day and some websites I visited even suggested it could get as cold as -20. I'll just keep praying that is not so.

What is the betting the snow gets a little deeper than this? Hopefully, I'll miss it!

Anyway, I am sure I'll survive the weather whatever it is like as I am going to Belarus for a very special reason - I am really privileged to be able to take this trip and deliver shoeboxes to needy children.  I'll then get to spend some time with them and a translator and I can listen to their life stories and write about them to share with you here and also to share on the OCC website and in their publications/ newsletters etc.

Having only been back from my Ethiopia trip a month I feel like I know a bit more about what to expect in regards to a charity blogger trip but I am also aware this will be worlds apart from Ethiopia.  There, I was part of a team of about 20 bloggers and ONE staff, on this trip I am part of a team of 4 and I'm the only blogger, gulp! I am relying heavily on God to not feel overwhelmed by this. It is also helpful that the lady from OCC that I will travel with seems like a great lady and I am sure it will be fun to get to know her better. I will report more on the trip later next week after I meet a couple of the OCC staff for a briefing.

A snowy view from my window at home

This post was actually about how to stay warm when I am in a very cold country, so time to get back to that. Obviously, I won't be doing any sports while I am out there so my requirements might be a little different to those of a skier or such but I really have no idea if I am honest.  This is where you come in, do tell me what you think I might need, please.

I'll list here what I have already got to take with me -
  • ski gloves 
  • Fleece hat, scarf and glove liners (Lidl - would you believe? Just £2.50 apiece!)
  • 2 pairs of thermal leggings (thank you Sainsbury's and your 25% off clothes)
  • 1 thermal vest (need to get at least 1 more)
  • Jeans (mine already)
  • Long sleeve tops, hoodies, jumpers (my warmest normal clothes)
  • A North Face fleece mid-layer jacket
  • 1 pair of ski socks (yes I realise I need more - but do they have to be ski socks, or thermal socks or just thick walking socks, or even multiple pairs of socks worn at one time?)
  • and a Trespass 100 performance rated ski jacket kindly provided to me by M and M Direct, that I will review very soon.
So tell me people, what do I not yet know that I need?  and help me with my sock dilemma, please.....  I'm relying on you.

Thanks, Mich x

Thursday 15 November 2012

Reasons to be Cheerful - God's Promises (week 46)

A bit of a different #R2BC this week people, my overwhelming urge was to share some of God's promises with you. These are the biblical truths that support, encourage and comfort me on a daily basis.  No big words or complex concepts, just simple snippets of God's wisdom. I know many of you who read this are not Christians, but go on take a peek, it won't hurt I promise.

Scripture taken from the New Living Translation of the Bible.

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

Matthew 11:28-29
Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Proverbs 1:33
But all who listen to me will live in peace, untroubled by fear of harm.

John 14:27
I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

Romans 10:9
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Thank you God for all the promises you made to me and to all your children. I am blessed to be saved by God's Grace. My life is truly richer and I am content for being born again.

I love this song, so I thought I'd share -


Now it is your turn...
Over to you now, what is making you happy/ grateful this week?

Write your post, add in the blog hop code if you fancy and link up. Then go hopping around some blogs and leave some comment love and I'm sure others will do the same.

I have really enjoyed reading the #R2BC posts over the last couple of weeks, it is superb to see so many people looking for the silver lining when things are tough. That rocks my world!

If you leave me a comment, I'll of course come visit you this weekend.

Wishing you a peaceful and fun-filled week.   Mich x

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Memorable moments from Ethiopia #ONEMums

I wrote this post on 13th October as I sat at the airport waiting for my return flight.  I have just found it in my drafts and thought it was high time it got published!

I am sat at the airport waiting for the flight to board and I’m just trying to process everything I have seen, heard and learnt.  My travel partner Jen is poorly and has been for a few days so she is having a snooze whilst I work.
I am trying to sort out in my head what the key times have been from this journey but I keep coming to the same conclusion that practically every moment in Ethiopia has been memorable; all for different reasons.  This country will defiantly stay with me and now has a special place in my heart.
In no particular order here are some of my really special times –
*   Connecting with a little girl on the first day at the Mary-Joy centre, all those stolen glances, coy smiles and hand holding really set the tone for my stay in Ethiopia.

*   Being told by 2 Ethiopians that my accent is so good that they thought I could speak Amharic,  oh yes, how I chuckled at that one, I think I am up to about 10 words now! But for someone who has always struggled with languages it was welcome words to hear.

*   Seeing just how beautiful this country is, there is so much land and it is all so lush at the time of the year.

*   Experiencing first hand that the Ethiopians are a beautiful people.  So warm and friendly, they go out of their way for you and there is always a smile.  In a country where so many have so little there was no danger of pick-pocketing or violence, isn't that wonderful?

*   Finding out about the women being rescued by Women at Risk and meeting some of them at FashionABLE. To take them out of the sex trade and to pay them a good living wage is a marvellous thing.

*   Overhearing at Bahir-Dar airport two women talking in American accents, ‘they all have those #ONEMoms tags, I’ve read about them’.  Yay, the message is out there.
*   Shaking hands, doing high 5’ and hugging a million and one stunning children. One little girl in the slums project kissed my hand, it was so touching. I am in awe of Gabrielle’s natural manner with all children, they love her as much as she loves them.

*   Getting to know Jen Howze and spending time with the most eclectic group of women, I truly feel I have firm friends over the pond now. I have such admiration for the work these women are doing and whereas I started by feeling like the poor relation in blogger terms, all they did was affirm me and build me up.  Thank you ladies. X

*   Having so much loving support from home, despite a bit of unrest, people rallied together and I’m proud to be a UK parenting blogger. I can’t even begin to name all of you that helped, but you know who you are and I love what you have done.
*   Our farewell dinner as we each sat and shared how we had been impacted during our 8 days in Ethiopia, we all agreed over tears and laughter that this was just the start. We are a force to be reckoned with and we will fight for justice for all people.

*   The finally, finding God’s grace in just about everything.  Perfect.

Thank you Lord, thank you friends, thank you ONE.

I would love for you to read more about ONE and to sign up to offer your voice. There is a very simple widget in my sidebar.

Disclosure: I travelled with the ONE campaign to Ethiopia on an expense paid trip in October. Our trip was about success – Living Proof -- of what is working and why it is important that we continue to support projects that are making a huge, measurable difference for less than one percent of the entire US budget. It is about letting more people know what a tremendous difference the US and UK are making in the lives of millions around the world. And it is about adding thousands more voices to those already letting their elected officials know they support these life-saving programs.
The good Images need to be Credited to the wonderful Karen Walrond

Monday 12 November 2012

Splitting twins into separate classes at school

Miss M on the left and Miss E on the right

My twin girls are now five years old and they have gone into year one at school. Prior to this September they have been in every class together and always attended groups/ daycare etc together. Never in a million years did I think splitting them into separate classes might lead to any issues this year.

In fact I thought that them going into separate classes would be a really good thing. Miss M has always been the noisier twin, the confident one. She will chat to anyone and is always the first to call out or put her hand up. Miss E has been a different kettle of fish, she loves to stay close to Mummy, she is quieter and takes her time to assess situations and people before she finds her feet and dives in to be part of whatever is going on.

So quite logically we thought this split into separate classes would be very good for Miss E as she could learn to stand on her own two feet and hopefully it would encourage her to be louder and more confident. We were right, splitting them has been really good for Miss E, people keep commenting about how chatty she is and at her first parents evening her teacher told me 'she loved Miss E, she has a wicked sense of humour'.  I felt so proud, my delicate little poppet was flourishing.

What I realise now is that I simplified things, I stupidly made assumptions.  I assumed that Miss M was big and brave enough that it would not at all be an issue for her that Miss E was no longer by her side but this does not seem to be the case. Year one has been tough so far, at least four mornings out of every five I hear that she does not want to go to school, that she has a tummy ache. Failing that she tells me 'she can't go to school in case she gets a tummy ache'.  I get tears as she walks to school, or at the door, I get cuddles so hard and she won't let go and my confident girl has gone away.  It is a little heart wrenching to say the least.

Parents evening confirmed for me that she is finding this tough, I heard that she hides under tables, she does not want to join in with group work, she goes to the reading area alone and she rejects playmates. All not traits I would associate with Miss M. Luckily she has a teacher I respect and trust, so I know she will be OK but it is that normal thing, that as a parent I want to take this tough time away from her. But I can't can I?  I know it is really important her to go through difficult periods and to learn that not everything in life is perfect and does not revolve around her.

Because Miss M has always been a head-strong girl, a bit of a tough cookie we have had to take a no nonsense approach with her and it has worked but right now it is not what she needs, I think my little blond beauty needs me to be understanding and caring, offering her a listening ear at all times. The way she can come through this time of character growth is by knowing she is loved, supported and accepted. So that is what I will do - cuddle her, chat to her and make sure she has my time and attention.

If any other multiple parents have gone through this same situation and have any wisdom to share with me I'd be really grateful.

Thanks so much, Mich x

Sunday 11 November 2012

Not so #SilentSunday - a powerful story from Ethiopia

Late last week I received the final cut of the video that was made whilst I was out in Ethiopia with the ONE campaign as a #ONEMum. 

We had a talented professional videographer with us the whole time and on the first day when he said he wanted to interview me I nearly choked. Really, surely there were better candidates? He assured me I would be great and he would just ask me a few off-the-cuff questions and I should answer them honestly and from the gut.  So that is what I did and he obviously thought I did OK as I feature not just once, but three times in this video. 

I won't lie to you, I was a bit thrilled by that. Not because I am seeking fame and fortune but because it boosted my confidence, it made me feel like I was good enough to be doing this. To be going out on a limb and leaving my family to travel 9000 miles to try and help a country I had never been connected with before, to be using my voice to be an advocate, to be aspiring to make a difference.

Ethiopia is an awesome country. The people's positive attitude, faith and giving spirit are a challenge to me to live my life more full of joy.

I won't say any more, I'll just share the video as I feel it speaks for itself.

I would love for you to read more about ONE and to sign up to offer your voice.  There is a very simple widget in my sidebar.

Disclosure: I travelled with the ONE campaign to Ethiopia on an expense paid trip in October. Our trip was about success – Living Proof -- of what is working and why it is important that we continue to support projects that are making a huge, measurable difference for less than one percent of the entire US budget. It is about letting more people know what a tremendous difference the US and UK are making in the lives of millions around the world. And it is about adding thousands more voices to those already letting their elected officials know they support these life-saving programs.

Thursday 8 November 2012

Simple Reasons to be Cheerful - Week 35

Sometimes you do not need words.

Sometimes you need to keep it simple.

Today is one of those times, this is what has been making me cheerful this week -

Now it is your turn...Over to you now, what is making you happy/ grateful this week?

Write your post, add in the blog hop code if you fancy and link up. Then go hopping around some blogs and leave some comment love and I'm sure others will do the same.

I have really enjoyed reading the #R2BC posts over the last couple of weeks, it is superb to see so many people looking for the silver lining when things are tough. That rocks my world!

If you leave me a comment, I'll of course come to visit you this weekend.

Wishing you a peaceful and fun-filled week.  Mich x

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Operation Christmas Child - want to get involved?

Children with shoebox gifts they packed

You'll know by now that I love the Operation Christmas Child initiative from the Christian charity Samaritans Purse. Making up our boxes signifies the start of our Christmas season and it is a highlight of the year to be able to make simple Christmas shoebox gifts for children less fortunate than my own. Each year my children learn a valuable lesson as we talk and make these boxes together. People often muse where the true meaning of Christmas has gone and here it is! Giving a simple gift to the needy without any expectation of receiving anything back, just as Jesus would.

If you are feeling selfless and would like to get involved there are lots of ways and they do not all have to cost money or take up lots of time. I'll talk you through all the ways to help, choose one or choose all of them if you so desire!

1.   Make up a shoebox gift yourself and deliver it to one of the hundreds of collection points around the UK 

I have posted a making a shoebox tutorial post, so I'll direct you back there if you want to know what to do or check out the OCC webpages, they really are a fantastic resource. Personally, I can make a really good box up for about £10, in honesty, it might cost you more than that as I shop around for most of the year and collect bargains. But I think if you buy your kids one less present and spend £20 on this then that is money well spent on helping your children realise the world is bigger than them and we are the lucky ones.

Children packing their shoebox gifts

2.  No time?  Then get OCC to make a shoebox for you and you just order it online with Shoebox World

I personally have not used this service as we like to make our boxes but I love this idea and have some friends using it. We have to be realistic and time only goes so far, so if you would like to help but time is your enemy then this is for you. Pre-packed boxes start from £13.89 including shipping or you can choose a more expensive box, or you can even build your own box online, right down to choosing the wrapping paper and you can get the kids to do it as it is easy, fun and visual.

3.  Are you a blogger & you fancy spreading the word?

Yes?  Then post away, feel free to nick any of my material, I have lots of OCC posts on here.  Failing that share any posts/ tweets etc that you see and just help the word to spread, please.

4.  Sign up for Give as you Live and nominate Samaritans Purse as your chosen Charity

This is great if you are an online shopper as you do your shopping as normal in all the branded shops that you love like John Lewis and Amazon and money is given to Samaritans Purse but it costs you nothing - perfect win:win situation!

5.  Are you a crafter and could make items for shoeboxes?

I realise it might be a bit late in the year for you to start crafting dozens of wonderful creations now for this year's shoeboxes but it is never too early to start for the 2013 collection. Take a look at this page on Pinterest and be inspired.  I love it, there are tutorials on there to make DVD colouring boxes, memory games, skipping ropes and dress-up dolls. I have to confess I have not yet put anything handmade into our shoeboxes, this is one for me to start.

Craft idea for a shoebox gift

6.  Have you got some time on your hands in November?

Then why don't you volunteer to help in one of the warehouses, checking boxes and helping to get organised for this massive job of moving over a million shoebox gifts? Just email the regional manager or head office and they will give you the contact details of the nearest co-ordinator.  I'm going to help out next Friday at our local one.

Loads of ideas!  Do you fancy joining in and doing just one of them? 

Remember never underestimate your impact.  By just RTing one of my posts that tweet might reach someone who has lots of time of their hands or who can afford or donate dozens of shoeboxes, you just never know what might happen, so be bold and join in!

Oh and if you have heard any negative stories/ press about OCC then have a read of their latest response, it will put your mind at rest.

Have a blessed festive season, thanks for joining in.  Mich x

Why not pin this post for later?

OCC pin

Disclosure:  I'll be travelling with OCC in December to Belarus to collect stories from the children who receive shoeboxes. I have been making shoeboxes and organising the local school collection for years, I have a genuine love of this charity and I am not posting for any other reason.