Wednesday 30 July 2014

Handmade in July

Annie started a new linky and is asking people to share what they have made in July and I'm bursting to show you my blouse that I finished sewing. It has taken me a fair while as I've been doing it at a sewing evening class but it is fabulous to now have a new skill under my belt and a handy one at that!

Sadly it is a bit small at the moment, I just went by the pattern rather than measuring myself which is a bit of a faux-pas but it will fit soon enough!

Then the only other thing I made in July was this extra-easy cake for my girls birthday party. It was yummy and looked very effective without being too labour intensive.  Thanks to Helen at the Crazy Kitchen for the chocolate cake recipe. I particularly enjoyed my cake with a nice cappuccino from my Dolce Gusto machine!

I'd love to share a massive post with you of all the things I have made but to be honest my priority right now is trying to do less, not more!

What have you been making lately, anything nice?
If you like what you have read and want to stay up-to-date then subscribe by email for free and receive blog posts directly to your in-box - just click the link Subscribe to Mummy From The Heart... by Email or perhaps you like to keep all your blog reading in one place, if that is the case you can follow me on BlogLovin too!Follow on Bloglovin

Monday 28 July 2014

Black and White Project

For the first time I'm linking up with Charly over at PODcast for her new linky. I love taking black and white photos but I've not done it as much just recently, hopefully this will give me a kick up the bum.

Also I've enjoyed tonight experimenting and taking photos that were taken in colour and changing them over, I would not have thought to do this before but it has been enlightening.

So here is one taken in B&W last weekend at a beach BBQ, Miss M has so much attitude in the photo and it captures her perfectly.

Then this one was taken in colour and the flower is a beautiful pink normally and I'm undecided about it in B&W but I do like how the flower still pops out, even without the colour.

If you like what you have read and want to stay up-to-date then subscribe by email for free and receive blog posts directly to your in-box - just click the link Subscribe to Mummy From The Heart... by Email or perhaps you like to keep all your blog reading in one place, if that is the case you can follow me on BlogLovin too!Follow on Bloglovin

Thursday 24 July 2014

An evening stroll (A year in photos - week 30)

Yay for the school holidays, I am loving the fact that the kids can stay up late and have fun. There are serious benefits of living in a community of 70 and having 220 acres to explore. JJ has been spending more and more time with our young adult volunteers going for walks, chilling, playing pool and even having an outdoor movie night, which just looked awesome. How many 10 year olds can say they stayed up until gone 11pm and watched a movie under the stars surrounded by twinkle lights with about thirty 18-25 year olds?

One of the things I plan to do regularly is go for an evening stroll round our grounds with one of the kids. Miss E and I went for one earlier this week and it was so good to have that one-on-one time. We chatted about everything and nothing and both of us with our cameras enjoyed the silence too.

We started on the main terrace and headed out to the woods above front water.

This was growing as a weed but looked glorious.

Miss E loves to find a large stick each time we go walking

Walk nearly completed and we get to watch the sun go down over Ashburnham, with the stunning swans swimming past.

A few moments after this we had tears as I had lost her beloved pheasant feather than she had found.

Then as we reached home the sun literally disappeared over the hill, but that beautiful pink sky meant a fabulous next day.

Thanks for coming on our evening stroll with us.  Mich and Miss E xxx

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky
If you like what you have read and want to stay up-to-date then subscribe by email for free and receive blog posts directly to your in-box - just click the link Subscribe to Mummy From The Heart... by Email or perhaps you like to keep all your blog reading in one place, if that is the case you can follow me on BlogLovin too!Follow on Bloglovin

Wednesday 23 July 2014

How does your garden grow - July

This months How Does Your Garden Grow post is all about the walled garden here at my home. Since late may we have been having a bumper crop of cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, potatoes and the like.  It all tastes so much better when it is grown organically and of course the fact that I don't actually have to tend to it is a big plus point from my point of view.  I get to do the best bit - eat it!

Linking up with Annie over at Manneskjur.
If you like what you have read and want to stay up-to-date then subscribe by email for free and receive blog posts directly to your in-box - just click the link Subscribe to Mummy From The Heart... by Email or perhaps you like to keep all your blog reading in one place, if that is the case you can follow me on BlogLovin too!Follow on Bloglovin

Monday 21 July 2014

Start your day the Dolce Gusto Way... #DolceGustoBlogger

My morning routine has taken a turn for the better over the last couple of weeks.  In days gone by I have always started the day with a large cup of tea but now it is all about the coffee, more specifically cappuccino if I'm honest.

I've always liked coffee but I've never been able to make a cup as good as those you get when out but now I do get a really decent cappuccino and for a fraction of the price. Actually, my morning cappuccino now costs me about 47p per cup (or £3.77 for a box of 8) and I've ordered the Cafe Au Lait with this weeks shopping and they are even more cost-efficient as I need just one pod to make a cup and that is 24p for a seriously well-brewed cup of coffee.

So what am I using to make my delicious coffee?  A NESCAFE Dolce Gusto Mini Me machine made by quality manufacturer De'Longhi.  I see these retail for £59.99 at John Lewis and I think that is a good price for a machine with a 2-year warranty that has no fuss required. I just op in the pod of my choosing, select the volume I want (to match that suggested or to my own desire) and hey presto the machine regulates the pressure to ensure I have my coffee come out just the way I like it, be that a strong and sultry espresso or a frothy Latte Macchiato.

The Thermoblock heating system means that the cold water I put into the machine is heated in under a minute and thus I have drinks quicker than when I use a regular kettle! It is also really good that the machine kicks into standby mode after 5 minutes of inactivity and thus even if I have forgotten to switch it off it is energy efficient and safe.

I'm trying to limit myself to one cup a day as I like to add sugar to coffee and the regular cappuccino is 84 calories per cup although I've also spotted today there is a light version which is just 20 calories so I'll be trying that next. It's funny that I'm thinking about the calories when you look at the next picture though as I have found the cappuccino is super with cake!

I'll tell you what else is pretty cool, it is the Facebook page for NESCAFE Dolce Gusto as there is a real community feel there, you can chat, upload photos, be in with a chance to win pods, give feedback and even find fabulous recipes like this one below, I WILL be making this very soon...

They have also launched a new fun app called The Pod and this allows you to play games and collect stamps for fun and there is also the chance to win prizes when you complete the mini-tasks to earn the stamps. There is nothing laborious, it might just be giving your feedback on literally one question or saying what your favourite pod is etc.

It is always good to have a browse and see what is about and I've just found out that there is a code in each one of my pod boxes and by entering these on the website I can be in with a chance to win a years free coffee - result!

Anyway, I'm sure this will be the first of many NESCAFE Dolce Gusto posts as I've been selected to be a #DolceGustoblogger and that means I will get to try out all sorts of flavours and fun things.

Disclosure:  The mini me machine and a starter pack was sent to me free of charge for the purpose of trying out the products and writing this post. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Sunday 20 July 2014

A year in photos - weeks 27-29

I've been sitting on the edge of the blogging scene in recent weeks and this has suited me just fine.  Life is busy and the most important thing I can do is live it and enjoy it, not just write about it. I've been trying hard to stay chilled and to live in the moment instead of projecting and worrying about what might happen.

Here is what we have been up to in the last 3 weeks (and when I looked through my photos there was a serious lack of images in comparison to other times so I'm taking that as a good sign that I've been having some down time and not fretting about taking photos) -

A day with our family and also some of the wider Ashburnham family to Birling Gap and Seven Sisters cliffs. Lots of walking and fun.

Capturing a Mummy and daughters selfie, look at the joy in their faces - priceless.

A day to a local play park and gardens. It was a naff place in all honesty but we still had a nice time playing games together like crazy golf and air hockey.

Fun with our pastoral group, getting to know each other and playing games. It is such a privilege to be part of the lives of so many young people.

This next picture probably sums up best what I have been up to most in the last couple of weeks and that has been volunteering and working where I live. I've really enjoyed working in bookings, doing a couple of hour stints in the tea room and also doing the social media stuff. It is the tea rooms 1st birthday this weekend and I thought this was a good capture of the current staff.

It was the girls birthday this last week and they are looking very grown up and gorgeous. We had a fun party for them and it was super that my parents could be there.

I've also had some good times out with my husband thanks to some wonderful babysitters, we went to a party and for an Indian and then out for lunch and cake another time. It makes such a difference when you can chat without interruption.

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky
If you like what you have read and want to stay up-to-date then subscribe by email for free and receive blog posts directly to your in-box - just click the link Subscribe to Mummy From The Heart... by Email or perhaps you like to keep all your blog reading in one place, if that is the case you can follow me on BlogLovin too!Follow on Bloglovin

Friday 18 July 2014

Happy birthday my babies..... 7 today

A letter to my little ladies....

Hello my babies,

This time 7 years ago you had just been born and you were two of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. Daddy and I were so happy you had come to make our family complete. Miss E, you came out first and you squealed and made it known that you had arrived. Then our little Miss M followed, slightly more heavy and slightly more chubby and quite serene and we thought this might be how things continued.

But little did we know that each time we thought we had your personalities pegged you would swap and keep us on our toes. I'm pleased to say it has only ever been one of you at a time that has been super high maintenance. Miss E, it was you first and then once your reflux was diagnosed and you had your medicine you calmed right down and were such a cute and happy baby.

Miss M you were the one that fed well, slept through the night from an early age, talked first, walked first and frankly did everything first but you have always been our more feisty girl and you wear your emotions on your sleeve and sometimes get into trouble for being all too ready to share what you think.

I love you my babies, both so different, yet both so gorgeous.

Miss M you make me proud to be your mummy as I love how helpful you are, such fun to be with, always willing to share and put on a fun performance. You are so bright and you need to be careful not to waste your skills by getting into trouble through boredom.

Miss E you are a little tender heart and you care so much.  I have never felt such love as I feel from you and I love your tenacity, you won't give up and try so hard. Your skills in all things drawing and crafting astound me and I know one day you will be a super success in whatever you decide to do.

Don't forget my girls you are a team. Being twinnies is special and you must always be each others champion. Even when no-one else wants to play your twin sister will be standing there by your side so cherish that and nurture your special relationship instead of bickering and teasing each other (Miss M I'm looking at you here).

Anyway, have a wonderful day and I'm glad you enjoyed your party yesterday.

Lots of love, Mummy xxxxx

Wednesday 16 July 2014

No fuss printing with HP Instant Ink

For the last couple of years it has been such a faff to try and print anything, we had an old printer and we could not get the drivers to download onto my new laptop, so I had to email things to a very old laptop and then plug the printer into the computer and say a prayer as I hoped the printing would actually arrive. Then quite often I'd find the ink was practically empty and no-one had told me. Fast forward about £50 for a couple of new cartridges and I might be able to print something. Boy did it all drive me crazy and things would sit in my email account for days waiting for me to muster the energy to sort the printer.

You don't know how happy I am to tell you that this has all changed in the last couple of weeks. HP asked me if I'd like to try out their new Instant Ink service. This is a pay monthly ink replacement service which means I never have to worry about going out and remembering to buy cartridges again as they get delivered direct to my door just about the time the existing one will run out. It is super clever and makes me super happy.

Take a peek at this very short video, it explains the service perfectly -

It is so easy, you buy a compatable HP printer, enrol online with HP Instant Ink and then just get on with your printing.

The prices are not too expensive either, they start from a very reasonable £1.99 per month to subscribe to the service. It does not matter if you print black and white or colour, your plan is for the pages printed rather than the ink used. Of course on one hand this is good but you need to be aware that if you print a sheet with just a couple of lines of black text, that is one of your 100 sheets gone for that month. This service is especially good for those people who like to print lots of photos and ink intensive pieces.

I also like the fact that you can roll over the unused pages from the last months usage and that the cost for going over your subscription is not too steep either (see above).

When you sign up for your plan it might be a guesstimate as to which service you need but the good news is that you are in charge and you can easily change it online. If you upgrade this will happen immediately or you can make it retrospect from the start of your last billing cycle and if you downgrade or cancel this will happen from the start of your next billing cycle.

My experience
When my HP Envy 5530 printer arrived I took a deep breath and was ready for it to be difficult to set up. Brilliant news, it was not at all. I plugged it in, turned it on and it guided me through the set up by the colour touch screen, I was very impressed.

I was not so impressed that when it printed off its test page it appeared to be missing the text that I assumed should be on there. I then tried to print something from Word and nothing appeared yet if I printed a colour photo that came out fine. It was quite strange and I googled and found a few other people with this problem too on a HP forum. The answer seemed to be to insert a different black ink cartridge but of course this is not what you want to have to do with a brand new printer. As I had been sent an Instant Ink starter kit I put the black Instant Ink cartridge in and then my printing from Word seemed to be fine.

Great, I thought, how easy is that? Until the next day when I went to print the invitations for my girls birthday party and the computer and printer kept advising me I was not enrolled in the HP Instant Ink service and thus could not use that cartridge. I enrolled online then and there and that in itself was not difficult but still that cartridge would not print for me.

I thus emailed HP support as my error message was advising me to do and waited, apparently the response should have come in 24 hours but for me it was nearer 48 hours. Of course this is not that long but when you are avidly waiting to print it feels like a lifetime. I can say that the HP customer representative I spoke to was excellent and he helped me to sort the problem. Basically that original ink cartridge was now miraculously working and we think the issue was that I had been sent an Instant Ink cartridge before I enrolled, this of course would never normally happen if you were not reviewing the service, so I was just unlucky.

Since my problem was rectified a week ago I have printed loads and been really happy with the printer, the quality of the printed documents (including photos) and the Instant Ink service. The HP customer representative arranged for another black ink cartridge to be sent to me so I do not have any further problems.

I also could not believe how easy it was to print remotely from my iPhone and my daughter also did from her android tablet. I think the HP Envy 5530 is a fabulous wireless printer for the cost of £89.95.

The HP Connected account is also good and I love the fact I can log in to my account and see how many pages I have printed and feel in control of my subscription, it also advises me what ink has been sent to me and when and with the Instant Ink pack I receive a pre-paid bag to send back my old cartridge for recycling.

Plus Points
  • Never run out of ink again as a new cartridge will arrive to your door before yours expires
  • Unused pages from the month previous will roll-over for you to use
  • You can change or cancel your subscription anytime
  • You don't get charged any more for being a heavy user of colour printing
  • Instant Ink cartridges have more ink in them and can print over 500 pages each
  • Handy recycling service to do your bit for the planet
  • You can buy your Instant Ink subscription from John Lewis, PC World or online with HP direct

I'm so happy I found out about this service and I'm pretty certain that once my year trial finishes I'll keep this going as one year on the  £3.49 per month plan (100 pages a month) only works out to £41.88 per year and this price isn't much different to buying one black and one colour cartridge in the year.

Disclosure: I received a printer and a years membership to the HP Instant Ink so that I could honestly write this review. I have not been instructed what to write.
If you like what you have read and want to stay up-to-date then subscribe by email for free and receive blog posts directly to your in-box - just click the link Subscribe to Mummy From The Heart... by Email or perhaps you like to keep all your blog reading in one place, if that is the case you can follow me on BlogLovin too!Follow on Bloglovin

Tuesday 15 July 2014

How much does it cost to feed a 10 year old?

My son JJ is 10 years old, nearly 11 and he is a big, tall strapping lad, practically as tall as me and he even has the same size feet. So it stands to reason that he wants to eat nearly as much as I do and it can be hard at times to rationalise whether I should be putting as much on his plate as I have or not. I don't want him to end up overweight like me so I tend to go with giving him less and then he can ask if he is still hungry and wants a little more.

NatWest asked me to look at my spending habits and to work out how much I spend on JJ's food each week. Their Child Cost Calculator estimates that JJ will cost me about £40 a week in food (as he is in the 4 - 12-year-old age group) and I was a bit flabbergasted at this initially but upon thinking about it a bit more I realise it depends on what is happening in that week.

An average food shop for the five of us is about £100 a week and then I will sometimes top this up with extra bread, milk, fruit and vegetables so you might be looking as high as £120 but that will include all cleaning products, toiletries and household items. So the true cost of the food is about £100 and if you divide that by the 5 of us then that is £20 each, add in maybe one or two school meals a week and that's another £4 and a Twix after swimming and 50p sweets in the shop once a week is another £1. So now I am up to £25 in a week and fairly often we will have a meal out, sometimes it will just be a MacDonald's for convenience and that's about another £4 or if we are heading out somewhere nicer then it could be more like £10, which would then get it closer to the £40 mark that the NatWest calculator suggests.

I had a lot of fun using the calculator and seeing what it believes the cost of bringing up a child is, the estimated cost before you put any of your own edits in is just over £307K and that seems crazy to me but I suppose if you are paying school fees and hefty amounts in childcare it soon adds up and if you are earning a city salary, maybe that does not seem that much. I chose to adjust the calculator to suit our family's lifestyle and using educated guesses it looks as if my kids are costing me about £52K each over the course of the first 17 years of their lives. As I have three children that is in excess of £150K to bring up the kids and it worked out to £9100 per year in child-related costs. That seems pretty scary to me, as it does not even take into account your housing, utility bills or others essentials like that but I would not change it for anything.

Before having the children I had lots of disposable income, nice cars, abroad holidays and a massive wardrobe but their cries of Mummy when I arrive home after being away mean far more to me now than the money did.

Why don't you check out the NatWest Child Cost Calculator and see if your costs match up to what the research says a child will cost? It breaks the costs down into four age groups - 0-12 months, 1-3 years, 4-12 years and then 13-17 years which is good as it reflects that costings in various areas do change depending on the child's abilities and needs.

Let me know how much your cost comes out at for the first 17 years. Can you beat my £52K per child?  I think I did quite well getting it down to that and my kids certainly aren't missing out on anything.

Disclosure: NatWest have kindly sent me some Sainsburys vouchers to spend on my shopping and test out how much I spend on JJ's food. They have not instructed me what to write and I remain honest.

Wednesday 9 July 2014

National Trust - Birling Gap, East Sussex

What a nice Saturday we had last week. Some of the volunteers here had expressed an interest to go and visit Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters cliffs and we were happy to oblige and give them a lift. With our National Trust card in hand, we set off. I was super surprised to find though that there is no cost for visiting Birling Gap and walking the land that the National Trust owns and preserves.  You do need to pay for parking if you don't have your member parking badge but the prices were reasonable and you could claim the full cost back if you bought from the cafe or shop, which is what we did.

The tide was pretty high when we arrived but the kids still enjoyed going down from the clifftop onto the beach and throwing pebbles in and seeing what booty we could find. You can see the large steel stairwell that you descend in the first picture. I was so glad to find it was not some rickety cliff steps as I know there has been more cliff erosion here in the last year than there has been in the decade before it! We would like to go back when the tide is lower as lots of rock pools reveal themselves.

We decided to give the paddling and wave jumping a miss on that day as it was not the warmest but some others were more hardy than us and having a great time. After a while, on the beach, we headed back up the stairs and into the visitor centre to see what we could find. There was a lovely helpful assistant by the door who advised us of the many events going on over the summer months and talked to the girls about all the things they could find on the beach. Miss E really loved the natural chalk and Miss M was super proud of her cuttlefish find.

We all found the visitor centre interesting, it included history, facts, things to touch and explore and also a dress-up corner. Don't I look fetching as a fisherman?

We decided the best place for our picnic would be on the cliff top and my husband declared that he could spend every day up there just gazing over the beautiful views.

Next up a walk along some of the seven humps of the cliffs (seven sisters you see) and let me tell you they are far steeper than they first looked. The kids thought it was fabulous fun to run up and down the slopes and I was pleased there was a small wire fence to give them a visual boundary and keep them far away from the cliff edge. As it got later the sea started to go out and that makes the beach view even more dramatic.

I'd definitely recommend a trip to Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters, we will be going back again and this time I'll take my walking shoes and go a bit further afield, there are over 500 acres of open grass chalkland to explore after all.

Our day finished with ice-creams from the National Trust shop and the prices were as I'd expect, my tub was £1.70 for a very decent ice cream and the kids had various kiddie lollies. We also bought a boogie board and some fishing nets and there was a good variety of nice gifts and memorabilia.

The toilets were clean and easy to access and there was drinking water available on tap to refill your bottles. I'd imagine the only downside to this National Trust site might be tight parking in the very peak summer months but we will be back and I'd recommend a visit.

Check out all our other National Trust reviews over here. 

Monday 7 July 2014

5 key reasons why children should be wearing sunglasses

Recently I teamed up with Boots Opticians for the BritMums Live conference, I had a great time meeting lots of their team and especially Victoria O'Connor who is a super nice Optometrist. It really was a pleasure to help them attract other conference delegates to their stand so they could chat to them about why it is so important that we all wear sunglasses.

Personally I've always worn sunglasses as I seem to be sensitive to sunlight but I'm ashamed to say that I have not insisted my three children always wear glasses.  I am pedantic about them putting on high factor sun cream and wearing hats but I really had not clocked how important it also is for them to cover and protect their eyes too.

Let me share with you what I learnt, here are 5 key reasons why children should always be wearing sunglasses -

  1. Eyes are up to 10 times more sensitive to UV damage than skin. How frightening is that statistic? We are all aware of the need to use sun cream now but there has been little publicity about the need to cover our eyes. Thankfully Boots Opticians are looking to lead the way and educate people. (Source: Essilor)
  2. 40% of all UV exposure occurs when you are not in full sunlight. The mornings and evenings are often the worst time as the light bounces off reflective surfaces like roads and water.
  3. As children have larger pupils and clearer lenses up to 70% more light reaches their retina and they can be exposed to up to 80% of the eye's lifetime exposure of UV light by the time they are 18, making them more susceptible to the effects of the sun. It makes sense when you think about the amount of time they spend outdoors doesn't it? (source: Eyecare Trust)
  4. Until the teenage years your child's crystaline lens does not prevent UV light from damaging the retina, so that makes it our job to ensure they have the right protective sunglasses on. (source: Essilor)
  5. Francesca Marchetti, Optometrist and immediate-past Chair of National Eye Health Week says: “Protecting your eyes from UV rays is vital. According to the World Health Organisation UV damage is the most preventable factor of developing cataracts and around 10% of all skin cancers affect the eyes. Exposure to the sun's UV rays also increases your risk of age-related macular degeneration - the UK's leading cause of blindness. The risks associated with UV exposure are cumulative so it’s important to protect your eyes whenever the UV Index reaches three or more. UV damage can occur even when its cloudy so everyday UV protection could help minimise your chances of suffering future sight loss."
I could actually go on and on as there are so many reasons why it is important for children to start wear sunglasses from an early age but I'm pretty sure that just those five reasons are enough to make you think that eye protection for your children is a very good idea.

Not only do Boots Opticians want to educate people and raise awareness of these issues, they also want to provide the solution and without it having a high cost. As of June 2014 Boots Opticians are adding in UV protection to all their lenses as a standard and there will be no additional cost for this service. Their pricing has been streamlined and they now offer a simple set price on the side of the frames as you choose, one price for standard lens and one for varifocals, both including UV protection.  Of course you can upgrade if you wish and take some additional extras but that is your choice.

Victoria O'Connor said "We believe all round UV protection should be available to all customers at an affordable price on their local high street".  I think that about sums it up. Well done Boots Opticians!

Disclosure:  Boots Opticians sponsored me to attend BritMums Live and also gifted me a sight test and pair of sunglasses. The have not told me what to write and I remain honest.