Tuesday 30 December 2014

#FitandFree - Practical steps

I made this blouse for myself in 2014 and I've never worn it as it is too tight!

OK, so I've made the decision 2015 will be the year that I get fit and free myself. I will become fit for purpose and be ready and waiting for whatever is planned for me.

It is not enough to just sit back and say this will happen though. I need to make plans and plot some practical steps that will allow me to achieve my goal.

Saturday 27 December 2014

So what happens now then?

I was asked this question a couple of weeks ago and I think it is a very pertinent one and it has certainly been useful. I have found myself many times in the last few weeks pondering - what now?

The quick and simple answer is that I have no idea.  I do not know what the future holds or what I am supposed to be doing. All will be revealed in God's good timing and I must have patience to wait and see.

That is pretty frustrating though, as of course I want to make things happen, to change the world and to stop injustice. I want to jump on it and make it happen now, not tomorrow, not next month and certainly not in five years time. I see what others are doing and my actions feel inadequate but we are not supposed to compare ourselves to others, that helps no-one. We must just follow our own personal path.

I've mentioned many times that I do not like resolutions as I feel they are made to be broken but I do see the value in setting goals and having forward vision. To some extent it is difficult to set long-term goals as I truly want to be open to what God has in store for me and I don't want to be too busy off on a tangent that is not part of his plan.

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Have a very Happy Christmas

Christmas Eve is almost over and the big day will arrive very soon.  The kids at last sound as if they are asleep and I pray they will stay there until at least 6.30am tomorrow morning!

Today has been fabulous, as had yesterday if I'm honest.  it really does pay to be organised and then once the kids are off you can just focus on them and the wider family.

We have a big day ahead tomorrow - friends over for pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon and maple syrup for breakfast.

Monday 22 December 2014

Let me introduce you to the World Moms Blog

Image Credit

When I travelled to Washington D.C. back in October with ONE I had no idea what to expect from the #AYAsummit. I knew it would be pretty amazing as the ladies at ONE do not do things by half. Having experienced a trip to Ethiopia with them in October 2012 I knew the standard to expect and the conference did not let me down, I met the most amazing plethora of inspirational women and men.

Everything I heard and learnt is still sinking in and whilst I'm having a break from the on line world in December I am praying and pondering on what the future holds and how I can continue to help and work with ONE. I'm often so tempted to feel like a little fish, out of her depth but I have to remember that I have a part of play and I must do my footwork. God will take care of the big stuff and the right people will read my material or be compelled to act by what they see or hear from me.

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Visiting Surrey with the family - 6 great days out

Until the age of 18 I lived in Surrey and 23 years later my parents still live there so I'm a frequent visitor. It is probably the county I feel fondest about, all my firsts happened there - steps, words, tooth, school, kiss and I even bought my first house with dh there.

Nowadays when I go back to see my family I am a visitor because we do not have a base there and my parents home is not big enough to house us all so I am always on the look out for a good quality hotel that does not cost the earth and can accommodate three or four of us in the same room, within a short travelling distance of Woking.

We tend to leave one or two of the children with my parents (and they think this is a wonderful treat) and the other comes with us to the hotel. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that we could get a room at the Holiday Inn, Farnborough for four of us to stay after Christmas for just £78 for the night. That kind of price is comparable to what we would pay for a budget hotel but this is no budget hotel, you only need to look at the photos on the site to see how luxurious the hotel it. I was highly impressed with the indoor pool, air conditioning in every bedroom and the kids stay and eat for free promise, we will definitely be checking in to the Holiday Inn, Farnborough in the near future,  it is only about a 15 minute drive from my parents front door.

Thursday 11 December 2014

Our perfect family holiday in the sun

When Mark Warner asked me what the perfect holiday was for my family I really had to apply some thought. We are all quite different and holidays can be interesting (to say the least) as we try to find good compromises to ensure that everyone gets to do something they fancy.

First off you have my eldest son and he is all about the water. He announced to me the other day 'Mum, you know those holidays my friends go on where their parents just sit by a pool all day and the kids play in the water and I always said they were so boring? Well I think I am ready for one now'. So at the grand age of 11 years I can confirm that JJ is ready to go abroad, he wants to swim, play water volleyball, hang out with mates his own age and have a good time.

Sunday 7 December 2014

In His Time

By the time this post publishes I'll have delivered a short session tonight on this very subject. As I sat and wrote the material I realised I probably ought to capture the essence of my talk here on the blog as it is always good to look back and see where God is working.

In the age we live in, the general expectation is that we can have what we want, when we want it and predominantly people want things NOW.

It is an age of instant gratification and there is no need to wait for anything.
  • You want food – go ahead and eat it, it is not rationed.
  • You want a car - buy it, even if you don’t have the money, there are loans readily available.
  • You want an intimate relationship with someone – then just have a one night stand, everyone is doing it after all, what's the issue?

But life is different for us, as Christians we are proud to rely on God’s word and His instructions for our lives and he very clearly tells us to ‘be in this world but not to be of it’. But what does that mean?

Romans 12: 2 (NLT) says "Don't copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." 

Wednesday 3 December 2014

Sharing my Top Tips on Managing my Household Budget

My current beautiful home

My husband and I bought our first house back in 1997 and I have to be honest and say that he taught me everything I know about managing a tight household budget. I was always a 'live now and forget tomorrow' kind of spender and whilst that was lots of fun it often led me back to my parents and getting bailed out whilst I was at University. Of course, once you are in that spending mentality it is pretty hard to break it and it was only because my husband said we would not combine our finances until I showed him I could be trusted with money that I started to work hard to change my ways. I'm really keen that my kids don't go down the same path as I did and I am avidly teaching them about financial literacy

Tuesday 2 December 2014

Christmas - get the kids involved!

Christmas can be a really busy time and for some it all becomes too much and the burden of jobs and money takes its toll. I'm firmly in the camp that says if you can't afford it, do not do it. No Christmas is worth having to pay off credit cards for months afterwards. Nor is it worth making yourself ill with stress.

Christmas is supposed to be a time when we celebrate the best gift of all, the birth of Jesus Christ and ultimately the sacrifice He made for us, so it is important for me and my family to spend time during Advent where we focus on Jesus and not ourselves. That is not the easiest of tasks with three kids as ultimately they would like to just take, take, take but they need a grounding and an understanding that Christmas is bigger than them.

I don't think Christmas is just the responsibility of parents, they should not have to plan it alone and do all the organisation, the kids need to be involved too. My kids may have groaned the first few times I asked them to set the table, empty the dishwasher or do the recycling but now they do it as standard and know they are part of a team and are making a difference to family life and you know what? I think they even enjoy it too, it gives them a sense of achievement and they thrive on the responsibility.

Sunday 30 November 2014

Permission for leave granted

Hey blog,

It is Mich here, did I tell you I put in a request for a few weeks leave? I'm feeling a bit weathered and there is lots on my mind, so I'm going to take some time to set my priorities in order, to rest in God's loving care, be with my family, go to the gym and to have some fun.

I explained here that I need to remember who I am and to find out what it is I'm scared of.  Those chains I mentioned that needed breaking, Yep I'm gonna have a go at that as well.  It takes quite a lot of energy so I've given myself permission to be absent from the blog for a while, probably around the same time as Advent, which is perfect as it means I will focus on what should be the number one priority in my life and that is my relationship with God. I've been sad to realise this has been siding down my to-do list recently.

You know me, I find it hard to keep away, so the odd post might pop up as I'll of course fulfil all obligations that I had committed to, but in the main there will just be some silence over here or maybe some pretty pictures, we'll see how this pans out.

I'll miss you, but I know I'll get over it (in the nicest way), I always do when I have a bloggy break. Then I come back raring to go and full of beans ready to capture the world!

Love, Mich xx

You see this picture of the sea, I'm right at the foot of the picture at the moment, just pondering how I will navigate my way across that first stretch of water to reach the land you can see beyond. When I reach that land I'll be back and ready for the next chapter and diving into the big deep blue sea beyond. I'm not feeling scared, God is with me.

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

Saturday 29 November 2014

Jersey War Tunnels - Fabulous Family Fun #CountryKids

It's been way too long since I have joined up with Fiona over at Coombe Mill for her #CountryKids linky so today I am rectifying that.  At the end of October we took a family holiday to Jersey and it is a wonderful place. I'd be happy to recommend it as somewhere to take the kids and get outside and explore. The island is beautiful and the beaches just divine.

One day we took a short drive from our hotel in the capital St Helier and headed to the Jersey War Tunnels. You might not be aware that during WW11 Jersey was occupied by the Nazi's and the whole island had to bow down to their power. One of the things they did during their time on Jersey was to build a complex web of tunnels into the hillside. These tunnels were used as a hospital and were a safe haven from overhead attack.

Friday 28 November 2014

Win your own design Christmas wrapping paper - yes please!

I spent a really enjoyable hour tonight sitting with my 7 year old twin girls at the kitchen table. We were all sat there together creating designs for Christmas wrapping paper and it was so nice to share our ideas and encourage each other. Miss M would not call herself a natural artist and she never really sits down and applies herself so it was particularly fulfilling for me to be able to reassure her that she has talent too, it is not just her twin who is the arty one.

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Buying Beautiful Ethical Gifts and a Super #Giveaway

When I was away in the states last month I got to meet some amazing people who are not content to just sit back and watch other people pull themselves out of poverty, they want to be part of that process and to use the knowledge they have to help these entrepreneurs in developing countries be able to access the consumers out there and bring their products to the market.

Talking of To The Market this is the name of a fairly new social venture founded by Jane Mosbacher Morris who has sourced some beautiful goods to sell to the US market via pop-up shops and her website. I love this site, not only is Jane and her small team interested in bringing us wonderful goods they are also interested in giving all their artisans a channel to share their stories and be heard, so powerful. Just take a look at a few of the products -

Unfortunately for my UK readers To the Market is set up to sell in the US and Canada. Jane has said if you see something you fancy email them and they will investigate postage but of course realistically that will make a cost difference.

I've been looking out for UK companies doing the same kind of job as To the Market and I came across SWAGs World (Simply Women and Girls Sustainable World),  who appear to be offering a smaller range but still with some beautiful items none the less. Their mission is to offer a global marketplace of affordable, accessible products for socially responsible consumers; an alternative to mass-produced, throwaway fashion, poor working conditions and undervalued labour. They take pride in the quality, craftsmanship and uniqueness of each product they sell, and believe it to be a reflection of the skill and passion that has created it.

Their harmony dolls are particularly gorgeous and of course super for allowing young children to think about the value of difference and the harmony we should all be living in. I've been lucky enough to be sent one to giveaway to one lucky reader. My 7 year old twins were looking at it this morning and they begged me to keep it, we won't be! lol

Not content with just giving you a Harmony doll, I thought I would also offer you a couple of brand new items that I have at home.  A stunning Genet scarf from FashionABLE who are another wonderful not-for-profit that I adore and also a Kate Spade on Purpose gold bracelet. In this last year Kate Spade have introduced a new program called On purpose and they have been working with 150 women in Rwanda on an initiative which seeks to transform their community of 20,000.

So here is what you will win in this giveaway -

and the scarf and bracelet close up -


Win 3 beautiful ethical gifts

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

Getting into my Winter Coat

I go against the grain, I'm that kind of girl. Whereas most people are desperate to lose weight for the summer I need to lose weight for the winter.  Well OK, I'll be honest I just need to lose weight full-stop and it does not matter when. It's only become a bit more urgent now as I have my new super warm and fully waterproof coat from Mountain Warehouse and it is snug, yep really snug. There won't be any jumper or cardigan wearing with it at the moment! Thankfully it feels warm enough that I can go out in just the coat and a short-sleeved top and it was only one degrees this morning but you know what it is like when the snow hits. Then I'll need to wrap up and I don't want to look as big as I do right now.

I'm about to take a blogging break for the next month and the purpose of that is to enjoy advent and focus on the real meaning of Christmas. I'm pretty sure God won't mind if I also use some of the time I free up by not blogging to take more exercise and plan better dinners and meal options. I suspect if I focus I can probably lose nearly a stone before Christmas, they do say the first bit to shift is the easiest and that might just be enough that I then feel comfortable in my coat and my chins look as if there are a couple less of them!

I got my son JJ to take some pictures of my in my new coat earlier and whilst the coat looks great, I'm not so impressed with me.  I am without make-up as I think it is important to let my skin breath at least one day a week and I'm not vain enough to worry about these photos going up on my blog, this is tales of the good, bad and ugly after all.

Let me tell you want I like about my new coat, the Canyon women's long waterproof coat -
  • It is available in both burgundy or khaki colours, I thought I'd go for the burgundy as red and pink are my favourite colours but actually I'm now wondering if I'd have looked more trendy and less mumsy in the khaki.
  • It is currently on sale for £59.99 and I think that is a very reasonable price for a quality coat like this. I can see it lasting for a very long time.
  • It is fully waterproof and will keep me dry in all this awful weather we have been having.
  • It is long enough to keep my bum warm as winter arrives.
  • There are loads of toggles to be able to adjust it to make it as warm as possible, inside the coat by the waste, at the bottom hem and around the hood can all be drawn in to keep the cold out.
  • There are elasticated cuffs and then also regular sleeve edges that cover them and can be drawn in with Velcro. So it has the benefit of being really warm without looking frumpy.
  • The hood has a great furry detail to the edge which I really like but it can be removed by poppers if you like and you can zip off the hood too if you want less bulk.
  • The front pockets are massive and you can put loads in them, this is useful for me when I am taking photographs and want to take additional lens and filters with me but without the faff of a bag.
  • The front pockets can be accessed from the top and from the sides and the inside when you access them from the side if lovely and fleecy and warm.
  • There are also loads of other pockets, both inside and out. The one up by the collar on the outside if my favourite as it is a perfect size for my mobile and keeps it really safe.
  • It is padded inside which makes it really warm.
  • it is available in sizes 8 - 22 so should suit most everyone.
  • As per my previous experiences the delivery from Mountain Warehouse was really quick and the packaging was good. I saw see it is free delivery to your home if you spend over £50 and there are free exchanges and returns if you need to
When you look on the Mountain Warehouse website there are lots of reviews for this coat and they are all excellent so it appears I'm in good company.

I'm setting myself a little challenge, to come back after December and to show you a picture of me in my coat so you can see how much weight I have lost. Wish me luck.....

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 24 November 2014

Healthier frying with my Breville Halo+ Health Fryer

For the last couple of years now I've heard friends talking about the new breed of low-fat fryers and how amazing they are. Whilst I love a good portion of chips as much as the next person I just closed off really and didn't listen too much as who need another large kitchen appliance that just does one job?

Well it was only when I was visiting my friend Carey that I spotted her Breville Halo+ health fryer and asked her if it was any good, that I discovered just how versatile it is. This appliance that I thought would just deep fat fry actually does all sorts - bake muffins, grill salmon to perfection, cook a curry and even make me the most divine Creme Brulee. To say I was surprised is an understatement!

It was then even more of a surprise to find BritMums putting a call out to see if any of their bloggers would like to trial and review a Breville Halo+ health fryer. Of course I applied for that opportunity and fortunately for me and my family, I was successful.

My fryer arrived with me just over a week ago and I haven't cooked as much in it yet as I would like as I already had my menu planned and bought for before I even knew the fryer was on its way to me. Over the next few months I intend to really put this appliance though its paces and see if it is a good as my friend Carey says.

Of course the first thing I set out to cook was chips. It is a classic and in honestly the main reason I wanted one of these.  I never use the traditional deep fry method so if we have chips at home they tend to be oven chips and they are OK but not the same level of deliciousness as those that come from the chippie or my Mum's homemade ones.

I'll be honest frying your own chips is more time consuming and effort than getting a bag of ready made ones out of the freezer but the chips done in the Halo+ do taste at least ten times better than oven ones! Not quite as good as chip shop deep fried chips but then you have to make some allowance for the fact these have 95% less fat, that is a massive difference and a very important one when you are considering weight and a healthy heart.

You can see in the picture grid below how I did with my first batch of chips. As a family of 5 with big appetites we don't go in for small portions so I went for the full 1.25kg of raw potatoes, which is the capacity of this Halo+ health fryer.

I cut the chips to 1 -2cm slices, patted them dry to remove excess moisture, laid them in the pan, poured over the tiny spoon of oil, put down the lid, set the time and pressed dual cooking mode (so simple!). After the 35 minutes as suggested by the instructions the chips were not done enough to my liking so I went for another 10 minutes and then they were great. The non-stick bowl that rotates and the tilt function on the fryer means that the chips cook evenly and without sticking. They were super chips but at 45 minutes to cook and a good 10-15 to prepare they are not a quick dinner.

OK, so you can see my finished dinner and it was not the most healthy dinner in the world but every do often you have to have a treat, don't you? And, just think by using the Halo+ fryer for the chips I cut the calories in that meal radically and lunch had been a whole ton of veggies, so it all comes out in the wash.

Healthier Cooking
That is one of the really great things about the Halo+, I can still eat the meals I want to eat but because of the cooking method the result will be far more healthy than if I had traditionally cooked it and as I am embarking on a month of healthy eating, exercise and family fun in December this is the perfect appliance to have available to me.

One of my favourite simple meals is steamed veg with grilled salmon and lemon juice over it, it is perfect that I have been able to use my (too small) oven to cook for my family as they do not eat fish and then use my Halo+ to cook my salmon fillet to have with the same veg the family are having with their meat and potatoes (very traditional British family here!).

The only other thing I have used my Halo+ fryer for so far was to cook some frozen burgers for when the kids had some friends come round for tea. I was interested to see how the Halo+ coped with frozen food and it appears to do a fine job. This time I used it on grill mode rather than dual cooking and it was great to see all the fat come out the burgers and run to the bottom, this meant the meat I was serving was healthier and I was able to pour off the fat for it to solidify and be disposed of.

Recipe ideas
There are some excellent recipe ideas on the Breville website so you don't have to feel alone and like you have no idea what to cook, just head over there and make something delicious. I'll share a few that look simple and are on my hit list and don't forget how wise it is to do batch cooking -

Vegetable Chilli
Hunters style stew
Swedish style meatballs in tomato sauce

Cleaning the Halo+
You get a snap on very robust handle for moving the inside dish and this is good as it gets extremely hot, it is easy to use and I just pop it in the dishwasher. Generally I found cleaning the product really easy.  The grill rack and inside dish can be put in the dishwasher and come up well and the outside can be wiped with a damp cloth. The plastic hood also comes off for washing. The hardest part was the metal grill at the front of the grill fan, this does not remove and after cooking the chips the photo below shows how it came up looking after a wipe and then a scrub with wire wool. So it looks as though that top part will look stained, as I'd be loath to put cleaning product up there as the grill is behind it but as it is inside I'm not too worried.

In general I think the Halo+ looks like a little alien and it makes me smile each time I see it, it is rather bright and garish and luckily my kitchen is green. If it wasn't I might not like the bright colour so much. The Breville Halo+ Health Fryer has an RRP of £169.99 which is my opinion is pretty steep. From shopping around I see you can buy it as low as £99.99 at Argos but it is still a big investment and I think you would really need to want to cook deep fried items like chips and battered fish as otherwise you could just invest in a very good slow cooker to do many of the other jobs.

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 20 November 2014

Beautiful Christmas Jewellery gifts from Merci Maman

I've seen that quite a few of my blogger friends have written about Merci Maman over the last 2 or 3 years so when they contacted me and asked if I'd like to review a necklace for them I was very excited. Sadly the email had gone into spam and been unnoticed for a while so when I went back to them to ask if they were still seeking people I wasn't sure if they would be but it was obviously meant to be as they sent me a link for a new necklace that as yet had not been reviewed by anyone else. Coincidentally this was the necklace that I had chosen the night before when I looked through the site.

Tuesday 18 November 2014

My top 10 #AYASummit Moments

I've got so much going round my head at the moment and it is just becoming a big jumble. I sit down at the computer to put my thoughts into words and nothing comes and then I get cross with myself and try to focus, realistically it is a bit of a vicious cycle.  I know myself well enough to know it is time for a bloggy break and that's coming but I've just got a few things to sort out first.

One of the things I really did want to capture before taking a break is all the amazing moments I experienced when I was in Washington DC with ONE for the #AYASummit. As I've said before this really was the most inspiring and all-consuming conference that I have ever had the privileged to attend. I just need to get my head in order so I can use all the information and experiences I gained.

Here is my top 10, I thought about doing a count-down but it would seem wrong to place the events in any kind of order of importance or relevance as they were all so impacting -

1.  Listening to Marquesha Babers read her poem she had written as an entry to the Girl Rising competition to attend the Women in the World summit. What was remarkable is that 19 year old Marquesha has spent most of her life homeless and yet her spirit and morals are fabulous, she talked after about protecting her cousins for poor TV choices and getting an education.

Sunday 16 November 2014

Let's find mushrooms mummy (A year in photos)

After Church today I asked Miss E if she fanced a walk around the grounds where we live. JJ wanted a chilled afternoon before a game of football with the volunteers, Miss M was to make Anzac biscuits with Daddy for home learning and that left me and the little cutie,

'Let's find mushrooms mummy' she said excitedly, 'we can take our cameras'.

So that is what we did, a nice walk for a couple of hours enjoying the fact it was not raining but enjoying finding the fruit of all that rain as there was some fabulous fungi to be found! We then finished off the afternoon by inviting the rest of the family to join us for a cup of hot chocolate at the Orangery.

One on one time with my chidren is so special, that it can't be taken for granted, so as we walk I always take time to chat. We talk about the week gone, the week ahead, school, activities, friends, who we can pray for and what is on our hearts. It is very special to have that time to enjoy being together.
 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Thursday 13 November 2014

Rampant commercialism or a great reminder of past times? #ChristmasIsForSharing

I watched the Sainsbury's Christmas advert for the first time today and I balled my eyes out. For me it is the best advert I have seen in a very long time, in fact it is one of the only Christmas adverts that I do not mind seeing this early into the festive season. Actually scrap that, the festive season hasn't even started yet, has it?

Over the last couple of weeks talk on Twitter, Facebook and blogs has all been 'ahh isn't Monty the Penguin cute? Haven't John Lewis done a great job again with their Christmas advert?' and yes it is nice, it's sweet, it's endearing and as a mother it makes you think about your own child and their relationship to their special toy and if you are a romantic sort like me it makes you smile seeing all those couples in love but it is just to sell products from John Lewis. And I like John Lewis, I really do, I'm a happy customer of theirs and I'll keep buying from them but my eyes are fully open, they just want to sell to me and to make maximum profit, OK they provide great service, I'll acknowledge that but still it is Christmas commercialism gone mad.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Winter snuggle sessions with Netflix #StreamTeam

We have been away on holiday just recently and when we go away we always allow some of the young adults who live in our community to come and stay at our house. On the one hand this is great for us as we have peace of mind and on the other it is nice for the girls as they normally share a bedroom with two other people and rarely have the chance to just kick back and enjoy home comforts.

I know they love our Netflix so one of the first things I do when I return home is tune into my account and look at the 'recently watched' to see what the girls have been watching (not because I'm checking up on them, they are adults after all but) because it gives me some new ideas of films and series that I might like.

In the short time we were gone on our last break they seem to have had some mammoth viewing sessions in between their working hours.  I'll share with you some of the ones I like the look of -

GREEK - After finishing all the episodes of Gossip Girl I really need a new series that is lighthearted watching for me to dip in and out of while I'm doing the housework and cooking and this college based one looks just right.

Friday 7 November 2014

What can I do, I'm just one Christian?

The first Liberian Ebola survivor with Dr Lance Plyler of Samaritans Purse
(Who I had the pleasure of listening to on the #EndEbola panel at the recent #AYASummit I attended)

I'm sat on a comfy leather sofa in my warm and dry house in a beautiful rural setting in East Sussex and there are tears rolling down my cheeks. I find myself in this position very often now and I can't seem to stop it. I am affected by what I see on my TV and read on my computer.

The reason for the tears tonight is that I'm watching the BBC news and seeing how Sierra Leone is coping with the Ebola crisis over there. When you hear the President say he is hopeful for containment of the spread of the disease rather than confident and you watch as a group of 30 or so school children are asked to raise their hand if they have been orphaned and practically all of them raise their hand. You pray that they misunderstood and really that tragedy has not happened but deep-down you know this is what is happening. The outbreak in Kigbal is severe and about 10% of this villages population has died already in the last few days.

Thursday 6 November 2014

Why Paris is guaranteed to keep you busy in November

Image Credit

I love Paris, I've not been there that many times but for me, it is the city of love. I know that is cliche but I don't mind, the last time I stayed in Paris was December 1998 and my (now) husband had secretly booked a romantic break for us. At the time we were both managers in a hotel and one of the staff who worked for me in reception had come over to the UK from the French arm of the company.

Jerome helped my husband secure a really exclusive hotel for us and with his French-speaking skills and contacts at the hotel we got five star luxury for staff rates, it was a serious bargain. Nowadays if we were to visit Paris we would definitely head to the Hotel Direct site and have a look through what they could offer as then no French language skills would be necessary and I could rest easy.

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Sailing to Jersey with Condor Ferries

Last week my family we're lucky enough to take a fun family break to Jersey and what a great time we had. It was the first time the children had ever travelled on a ferry and the first time my husband and I had as adults. My last ferry ride was when I was about 19 years old and in fact I went to Jersey but it was on one of those overnight booze cruises that were popular with students about 20 years ago. The idea of lots of cheap alcohol was very enticing, I'm glad to say that phase has long passed!

This holiday was about forming memories to last a lifetime and having fun and relaxation together as a family and Jersey was the perfect place to do that. Small enough to travel its length and breadth in one day but built up enough that there is loads to keep you entertained.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Let me introduce you to Saa #AYASummit #WhereAreOurGirls

Saa with Emmanuel and our summit host Patricia Amira
A couple of weeks ago I was in Washington DC with ONE at the first Girls and Women's #AYAsummit. The purpose of the summit was to bring leading digital and media influencers together so that we could be inspired and learn more about all facets of international development, of course with the hope that we would then go out and spread the word.

In West African Adrinka symbols the word AYA is the name for a fern. A fern is a hardy plant that grows in difficult places and people who choose to wear the AYA symbol may be symbolising their own strength, resilience, resourcefulness and endurance. This of course makes it a perfect symbol for this conference of mostly women exploring issues that affect women and girls in the main.

Start-rite Shoes - Field Test Update

You may have read my earlier post where I mentioned that Start-rite had sent all three of my children new school shoes for a field test this term.

I thought I'd show you a visual update on how the shoes are doing. I've photographed the shoes most weeks during this 7 week half-term and I took the pictures of the shoes as they came home from school on the Friday. So they have not been cleaned or polished.

First up JJ, he was sent a pair of Warrior shoes from the rhino range, these retail at £55 for his big size 7 feet.

July 2015 Update - JJ has worn these shoes the whole year and they have been fabulous. The best school shoes he has ever had!

Week 1

Monday 3 November 2014

10 things you might not know about Jersey

1. The beaches are beautiful. There is such variety – some really long and wide white sand beaches, others with rocks that are great for rock pooling and awesome waves for surfing too.

2. The Island is only 5 miles long by 9 miles wide and thus you can easily travel around and see all of it. Even a short stay of 3 days like ours is enough to feel you have had a good look around.

3. Then because it is so small it means you don’t really need to bring your car. Hire cars are plentiful here and there are loads of coach tours to take you to see various parts of the Island. These all stop at the major hotels in St Helier too for easy pick-up and drop-off.

4. Jersey was occupied by the Nazis during WWII and there is so much history here to explore. The war tunnels are brilliant; a real eye opener to what life was like for those living in occupied Jersey.

5. Petrol is much cheaper here. Our VAT is 20% whilst Jersey’s tax is just 5%, so if you bring your car, make sure you fill up before you go home.

6. Generally it is cheaper to buy things here, you can get perfume and alcohol at duty-free prices and some shops will offer a discount for buying in Jersey. For example we shopped at the Entertainer toy store and they offer 10% discount on everything sold. Food however, seems to be more expensive and is sold at 5% more than it is in the UK.

Liberation Square in St Helier

7. Jersey celebrates its Liberation Day on 9th May and there are island wide celebrations on this public holiday. I’m told this is a really nice time to visit as you can join in the festivities and have a lot of fun. Being as it is May the weather is generally warm and beautiful too.

8. As it is a British Isle, much is the same as home. You drive on the left side of the road, the currency is Stirling but also there is the Jersey pound that cannot be spent back home. Everyone we met spoke English and most speak French too. The shopping centre is very British and you will find brands like Next, M&S, Goldsmiths and WH Smiths.

9. Despite it being a British Isle some things are different - the healthcare system is a private one, so take out insurance. Your British phone plan for data will not work here, you will need to purchase data roaming and calls and texts back home are more expensive and won't form part of your inclusive plan. The postal service is also independent and you need to purchase Jersey stamps if you want to write home.

10. St Helier (the capital) appears to take a lot of pride in the way it looks and you can spend a nice day there without really spending that much money. There are loads of statues and monuments to look at, there is an interesting historic walking trail around Fort Regent, the views are also pretty spectacular from there too and the harbour is beautiful and recently redeveloped.

We had a really nice break in Jersey earlier this week and I would happily return there another time. I think it would be great to visit in summer as although it might be busier, the weather and the deep green/blue seas will be enough to make up for the people.

If you want to find out more about Jersey and what is there then visit the tourist board site - http://www.jersey.com/ and for super transport from the UK it is worth looking at Condor Ferries. I can also recommend the Mayfair Hotel where we stayed too.

We had a great holiday in Jersey but it never seems to stop, now the kids are talking about how wonderful it would be to go to Lapland for Christmas, so I headed over to Kates to check out her Lapland holiday review.

Disclosure: We were provided with ferry crossings and 3 nights B&B for our family. A massive big thank you to Condor Ferries, Jersey.com and the Mayfair Hotel for ensuring we had a lovely time. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.
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Sunday 2 November 2014

A year in photos (Washington DC with ONE #AYASummit)

Stunning colours in DC

My life has been a whirlwind the last couple of weeks but in the best way. The first week I was away in the USA at the #AYASumit with ONE Girls and Women and I heard and learnt so much that I want to share it all with you but I need some quite time to process. The kids go back to school on Tuesday and from then I can imagine is when I will be able to start writing some posts about all the different panels that we listened to and engaged with.

For now I’ll share some photos from my time in America.

 I arrived into DC early evening and was collected by my friend and ONE Strategic Relationships Manager Jeannine. We had travelled together to Ethiopia in 2012 and she had kindly agreed to put me up for a couple of nights before we checked into the hotel for the formal start of the conference. I was blown away by her hospitality, she was so busy preparing for what would be an amazing conference but still she found time to make a divine veggie lasagne, enjoy a glass of wine with me and we got to spend some time catching up and enjoying each other’s company.

As Jeannine headed off to work the next day I went into central DC for to explore and found it a really nice city. The streets are wide and clean and the buildings reminded me of being in Europe, as they were very elegant, square and symmetrical. I particularly enjoyed the Museum of American History and of course got the obligatory White House selfie. I didn’t actually see quite as much as I hoped as it started to pour with rain in the afternoon but I figured my hubby and I would come back here someday.

Wednesday was a chilled morning catching up with work and then the afternoon was a decadent one as I checked into the hotel and had a luxurious bath, read a good book and explored the local area enjoying a traditional Afghan kabob for lunch.

The evening was the start of our conference and all the delegates met at the Mansion on O Street, the agenda was jam packed drinks and nibbles. This is the most unusual and interesting venue, it is open for private events but is also a hotel and literally everything in the place is for sale (at a price). You are encouraged to walk around and explore the four floors and look for the secret doors. It was fascinating to see what treasures there were across the property. You can stay in the bedrooms and the bathrooms are boast things like a telephone box shower, a glass chess set in the middle of the room and a wooden bath. You can buy a second hand novel for about a dollar right through to guitars played by and signed by music stars that cost thousands of dollars.

One of the hats you could buy at the O Street Mansion

I didn’t know many people at this reception and felt a little like an outsider but it only takes a few really friendly people to pull you in and make you welcome.  On this occasion those people were Jen Burden of World Moms Blog, Cindy Levin from Results and Aliza Sherman, entrepreneur and freelance writer/ speaker. We enjoyed a few drinks and a great chat all around the topic of international development and what we could do to make a difference.

The conference really got into full swing on Thursday and the agenda was jam packed, on the one hand I would say too much so but on the other it was all so brilliant I just can’t fault it.

Chelsea of Do a Little Good. I certainly want to get to know this passionate lady better

Amazing women doing amazing things - more to be shared....

The awesome Ginny Wolfe, Director at ONE, who invited me to America and to an amazing steak dinner!

After Friday lunch the summit finished and I had a wonderful time in Georgetown with Kristie which I have shared already.

Goodbye America, the view as I flew off

I’m liking this post up with The Boy and Me for the 365 project. Why don’t you go and visit some of the other linkers and see what they have been up to?

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky
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Wednesday 29 October 2014

Conversations about Fat

Last week the girls and I were sat in our lounge. Miss E and I cuddled up on one sofa watching a DIY program and Miss M sat on the other playing with her tablet and chatting away to us. It was an easy family hour, all content in each others company; we were relaxing and letting the busyness of the day fade.

Then all of a sudden Miss M looked at me and said 'Mummy, M, R and L at school all say you are fat' and she looked sad. Great, thought I, the nasty comments from other kids has started already, they are only 7 but remaining calm I quietly asked 'Oh what did you say to them?'

As quick as anything Miss E butts in 'you're not fat mummy, you're skinny'. This is of course ludicrous as I'm a size 22 and definitely a larger lady but I love Miss E's loyalty and desire to defend me.

Miss M is still looking sad, in fact looking like she wishes she had never bought the conversation up in the first place. I don't want her to be put in this position so I speak 'you know I'm fat babe, but does that make me a bad person?'. 'No Mummy, you are lovely, they made me sad saying you are fat' Miss M quietly comments.

'I know darling but you don't have to be sad because someone talked about me, it is none of their business, they obviously don't have anything better to talk about' I reassure her. 'So what did you say to them Miss M?'. Shyly she looks up and says 'I told them you are still my mummy and I love you'.

'Good, you did the right thing, don't get into an argument. Just play with other people if they make you sad'. All the while Miss E has been wittering on in her worried little nervous style, about how I'm not fat, I'm her lovely mummy. The three of us then progress to have the same conversation we have had many times before, that being fat does not define who a person is. They will have the same personality whatever size they are and it is not wrong to be fat. What is important is being fit and healthy, some larger people have excellent diets and run marathons and some very thin people eat junk food all the time.

We cannot judge a book by it's cover and really, is it any of our business what anyone else does or how they look? Both girls agree that no, it is not anything to do with other people and we end the conversation with Miss M looking less worry laden.

Following this conversation, the subject of me being very fat is again at the forefront of my mind. Hang on, who am I kidding? The fact that I'm obese never leaves my mind, as much as I wish to be able to accept this is who I am and the way I am, I just can't do it. I don't want to be this size, I know I look 8 months pregnant and I'm not happy with that.

This of course means I need to do something about it. I need to drop the excuses and practise what I preach, it is time to hand my issue to the Lord and have confidence that He will help me beat this.

It is not just about me anymore, it is about all those I love and how it affects them too. Please Father, help me I beg you.

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Monday 27 October 2014

One afternoon in Georgetown, DC

I'm sat here in my hotel room and it is my last morning in Washington DC and I feel like the luckiest girl alive. I'm heading home to my wonderful family and about to spend time with them all in glorious Jersey but I just thought I'd share what Georgetown, a historic superb of Washington DC looks like in the fall, or should I say Autumn? I am British after all.

I had planned to do a spot of shopping, get some food and maybe try out the cinema alone on my last evening in DC but then by chance I met the lovely Kristi York Wooten and she said lets team up and have a shop. I'm so glad she is the super friendly Southern type as we had a fantastic but chilled afternoon and then a very posh meal out in the evening. It was a perfect end to my first USA visit, thank you Kristi.

Actually that last one is not in Georgetown, that is Dupont Circle on the walk back to our hotel. A perfect afternoon of just gently moseying around.

Have a blessed weekend, Mich x
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