Saturday 19 December 2015

Wishing you a Very Happy Christmas

All the preparations are done, the kids have finished school and we are now off visiting family and friends. 

Our Christmas will be a large and busy one but with plenty of moments of peace and calm thrown into the mix too.

I pray you can take time to feel joyful over the holidays and I wish you peace, good health and a life full of contentment in 2016.

You might have noticed I've had most of December away from blogging and I'll be honest it has been liberating, at the moment I feel no real pull to come back and blog again, so I might be away a while yet......

Be blessed, Mich xx

Image credit: Shutterstock - Christmas Cross

Fun at church last weekend.

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Monday 7 December 2015

Doing Christmas Large!

I love Christmas, it is such a fun time and one I always look forward to. In the old days it meant time off Uni or work and plenty of dressing up, going out and having a tipple of two. For the last decade it has been about staying home and enjoying the time with my family. Building memories and traditions, some that have stayed with us and others we have had to adapt or even scrap completely.

One of the earliest traditions we adopted was wrapping all the kids presents on Christmas eve whilst watching a Christmassy film and having a Chinese take-away. My husband and I loved this and it was so easy when we only had one child and he went to bed at 6 or 7pm. Then even when we had three children all of a younger age it was still doable but over the last few years we haven't been able to start wrapping until about 10pm at night and with three kids and lots of gifts it started to get very tiring. The final straw was when we moved to East Sussex two years ago and our nearest Chinese take-away did not deliver and is a 10 mile round-trip.

Sadly that tradition had to stop but really it is no major issue as the conference centre where we live closes at midday on Christmas Eve and all the community and many of our returning friends come together to celebrate Christmas together. This year we expect there will be about 110 of us. Can you imagine how exciting my kids find this?

Thursday 3 December 2015

Every Day is a Roast Day for this Family - Toby Carvery Review #ManicMumDay

We all know that Mums generally lead a busy life and let's be honest many dads do as well. Recent research commissioned by Toby Carvery showed that most mums do not get to sit down on an evening until 8.07pm and I think on average this is probably about right, although some nights it is closer to 9pm!

It is for this reason that Toby Carvery offered my family and I to go along to our local restaurant (which in our case is Willingdon Drove, Eastbourne) on a week night and enjoy a meal that is cooked for us and involves no washing or clearing up. Result!

We booked a table using the online booking system, which is super easy and I have to confess that I have no idea you could book a table for Toby nowadays, as you never used to be able to. I was very aware from the start that the email confirmation (and reminder emailed to me the day before the reservation) stated that the table would only be held for 10 minutes from the reservation time and thus we arrived promptly.

Wednesday 2 December 2015

A new Hobby for JJ

I was super pleased when our small gym was given a make-over recently. It is in the basement of the main house at the conference centre where we live and it has always been dark and dingy.

However, hard work from many of the young volunteer team has meant that a window has been unblocked and new equipment has been purchased and it has all been spruced up with paint and new safer flooring's.

This complete change has meant that my 12 year old son JJ has started to show an interest in using the gym and let's be honest, anything that gets my computer loving son out of the house and doing something physical is alright with me.

It's also fabulous that many of the international volunteers who live here are very into personal fitness and we even have one qualified personal trainer amongst them, so JJ has been given some great tuition and tips of how to exercise safely.

It was great timing that JJ received his Adidas Terrex Boast GTX trainers (with GORE-TEX® technology to ensure your feet stay dry even during the wettest of weathers and activities) some weeks back as they have been perfect for exercising in - light weight, good grip and able to keep his feet dry and sweat free. I went down to capture JJ in action at the weekend and I thought I'd share some pictures -

Tuesday 1 December 2015

Encouraging Your Child's Imaginative Play

I'll make a confession to you and I'm sure I'm not the only parent who feels this way but I really dislike having to play make believe with my children.

I know, I'm terrible, right? I just find it so boring. I am a realist and I'd much rather be doing something that my logic says is worthwhile and is achieving something. You know, perhaps crafting some cards, baking cakes or going for a ramble.

But the research shows how important it is to encourage your children to take part in imaginative play. A key article in Psychology Today cites benefits such as increased creativity, enhanced empathy, your child gaining an understanding that others thoughts differ to their own, advanced language skills developing and even a reduction in aggression to name just a few of the major plus points.

Monday 30 November 2015

Growing in Confidence along with your Child

It is all too easy to feel like you are failing at parenting. Whilst there are hundreds of manuals and books giving you instruction on the best way to do things, at the end of the day it is all down to personal preference and I think we grow and improve with time.

I've been a parent for over 12 years now and if I'm honest it feels like a lifetime (in a good way). I can hardly recall what it was like to have a weekend ahead and no-one else relying on me. Parenting certainly does help you learn to be less self-centered when you have a small person (or three) relying on you for their every need,

But it is scary at first, right? I clearly remember bringing JJ home from the hospital after a traumatic birth and having been in there for four days. We headed straight off to Mothercare to buy some dummies (or soothers as them seem to be called nowadays), have a quick McDonalds so I didn't have to worry about tea and then my husband headed out to lead Cub Scouts and left me at home with this tiny little person with baggy skin and big alien eyes.

I laugh when I think back to myself sat on the sofa with JJ at my shoulder pondering when dh would come home as what did I do if he cried too much? How could it be that the last time I sat on that sofa it was only me and my husband to be concerned about and now we had this special responsibility of parenting a child. Rather than being too worried I did what has now become a habit at times when I need reassurance. I headed to the Internet and more specially at that time to my birth club on Baby Centre.

Saturday 28 November 2015

Finding my #IGoodThing A Day for Advent

I'm having the month of December away from blogging, I've done it a few times before and I always find a bloggy break is really good for the soul. My intention is to be really present in every moment and not thinking about where I'll find the time to write my next blog post or which review we have to undertake that weekend, Blogging has bought many blessings to my family but it is really important to know when to turn-off.

I won't be completely turning off social media but to help me stay focused on what is really important to me during Advent I'll be sharing a visual diary. One photo a day labelled as #1goodthing, this will act as a reminder of how blessed I am and how grateful to the Lord for all the great things he provides to me.

Friday 27 November 2015

Black Friday Special Offer - NOW TV, Save 40%

I'm a big fan of Internet based on-demand TV, we have been using it for about 18 months now since we moved to the countryside and were not able to continue with our cable TV, But you know what? I am so glad we had to give up the cable as being tied into an expensive contract is a headache.

Much better to be able to pay month by month and to finish your subscription whenever you need to without any penalties. We only got NOW TV about three weeks ago but I have already been crowned the best mum ever by my girls. Apparently it is the most awesome on-demand TV there is and I suppose that is only to be expected when you realise it is the offering from Sky.

And now is the perfect time to buy as today is Black Friday and most of the major retailers are offering great deals but you don't have to go and fight in the shops for this one, you can order online.

Today's great saving is 40% on a Now TV Box Bundle, making the cost of any of the following deals just £14.99 -

  • Now TV Box & 2 months Movies, 
  • Now TV Box & 3 months Entertainment or
  • Now TV Box & 2 Sports Day Passes 
But you need to act quick as the offer is only available from the 27th November – 30th November.

I'm seriously considering giving this gift to my adult brother for Christmas. This is far cheaper than the £25 I'd normally spend and I love the idea of a gift that entertains the whole year through. Even if he decided not to keep up the subscription to the entertainment, movies or sports that I have chosen for him, he can still use the NOW TV box as a really convenient way to stream things like BBC iPlayer to his TV.

Tuesday 24 November 2015

10 Top Tips for Enjoying a Stress Free Advent

This is the view from one of the prayer rooms in the prayer centre just a few steps from my house.
I'll be spending lots of time in here, cosy by the radiator!

Last Christmas I had such a wonderful chilled Advent period that I wanted to make sure I copied it again for this year. Thus my November has been a time of getting ahead with my blogging commitments, adjusting my pace to slow down and saying no to most of the opportunities that have appeared in my in-box.

I had lots of comments last year about how calm and organised I was and I wanted to share the ways I achieved this. There isn't any secret formula and I can't promise what works for me will work for you but if you fancy a chilled Advent and a better chance of focusing on the real meaning of Christmas then organisation and planning are your friend.

Each year I plan to have most of the commercial Christmassy things done by the end of November and then Advent is all mine to do the activities that I enjoy and to dedicate my time to The Lord.

Friday 20 November 2015

6 Reasons to Choose the Novotel Blackfriars for your Family London Stay

If you are anything like me you may get flighty ideas of taking the kids for a nice weekend away in London and then you start to think practical and have a look only to find that everything is prohibitively expensive or that you have to book two rooms to be able to accommodate your kids and frankly that just isn't practical.

Well, worry not.  I have the solution for you, book to stay at the Novotel Blackfriars and two children (up to the age of 16) can share your room free of charge and they can also join you for a delicious buffet breakfast without cost. In fact book to stay at any Novotel anywhere and you will be offered these two free places, as this is their regular family offer and I think that is pretty fabulous. Not perfect for my family if we are being honest, as we have three children but they do offer a 'Family Extra Room' promotion and this gives a second room for 50% of the cost. Which means your break can still be affordable and as my kids are older it is also workable.

I've been very impressed with all the family friendly offerings that Novotel have in general and I wrote a post about it recently, take a read over here. But what I want to share today is why the Novotel, Blackfriars has captured my attention and become a hotel that I'd happily recommend to friends.

Wednesday 18 November 2015

We're off out for a run Mum!

This was the shout I heard most mornings about 8.30am during half-term week. My twins are just 8 years old but already they want to get out and have a run.  I'd love to tell you that they have got it from dh and I but my running efforts this year were pretty appalling and thwarted by health ailments and dh's well, who knows the last time he ran anywhere! lol

No, it is lucky we live in a close-knit Christian community with about 50 young adult volunteers as this means my children have some superb role models to follow in the footsteps of. One of the things they seem to be copy-catting right now is having a bi-daily run and I can't moan at that. Nor the fact that JJ has been using our new gym on site, that is fabulous too.

It was a complete coincidence that Miss E moaned to me on the Wednesday of half-term that she had no suitable footwear as it is muddy round the lake and wellies don't cut-it when you want to run and then we received a package of three pairs of truly stunning Adidas trainers with waterproof GORE-TEX® technology. The kids were over the moon when they unpacked them.

Sunday 15 November 2015

We Can't Let Them Win - Love is Our Response!

I'd love to credit this, but I have no idea where it is from. I shared it from a friends FB post but it is not hers
What happened in France Friday is devastating and the outcry from the public is of course understandable. As a Brit I painfully feel the tragedy as Paris is a city I have been to, I have fond memories of and I currently live with a few French people. Living in an international community makes my heart stretch and want to embrace the world and no, not just the white developed world.

I want to embrace and care for all parts of the world. Currently there are 23 nationalities represented within our community, that is people from the continents of Europe, Asia, Africa, North America and South America. Each one of those people adds something just a little different, special and unique to the lifeblood here and I do not value any one of them more or less because their skin is white or because they speak English as their first language.

Yes, we are all Christians, I live in a Christian community but I suspect every one of us has friends of other religions and none. I will not ostracise people because they are Muslim.

Netflix - It just gets Better and Better

I'm not a big one for going out at night nowadays.  Each month I like at least one night out with my husband and probably every other month I'll go out with some girlfriends but that is about it, well unless you count my Monday night Spanish class but it is not exactly a big night out!

It's therefore really important to me to have some good TV to watch for those evenings when dh is at work or when I just need to completely relax and zone out. Netflix is my answer to this and over the last 18 months it has been a Godsend, we don't have Sky and we can't get cable due to where we live and thus on demand TV is what we have.

I written quite a lot about my love affair with Netflix, I truly think it is such fantastic value at £5.99 a month, I mean really, what else can you do for 6 quid?  not even go to the cinema once.

Every so often I get an email from Netflix and rather than annoy me, I love it as it flags a film or series that it thinks I might like based on my ongoing viewing preferences and it cleverly builds up a picture of what I like and do not like based on programmes I have watched and rated. It also acts as a reminder for me to head into Netflix and to explore what is new one there and add some new watches to my list.

I received one of those emails this week and it alerted me that Big Momma's House had been added to Netflix and I don't know about you but I think that is a classic.  Such a great family film and one I'll share with the kids and a bucket of popcorn one chilly evening when we cuddle up for some family time. It is a 12 and that's older than my girls but I can't recollect anything in it that concerns me. I'll need to have a little google and see why it is rated as that.

Thursday 12 November 2015

5 Great Christmas Gift Ideas: For Him

My Christmas shopping is in full force now. I do like to be organised and get it all done early but the ones I find it hardest to buy for?  Well my husband and dad of course. They are both the kind of men who don't really have any hobbies, are not interested in boozing, are not keen followers of fashion and don't want for anything. They are very happy to spend time with those they love and to bypass presents all together.This doesn't help me though as my kids would never let me hear the end of it if we didn't get them something.

So here is my list of the top 5 gifts for the man who wants for nothing -

1.  Personalised cheese or breadboard - If you have a man who likes to cook or loves some cheese and biscuits with a glass of port in the evening (like my husband) then why not check out this new supplier of personalised wooden gifts. Burn Me On make really nice gift bread/ cheese/ meat boards - really quirky and something a bit different. At £20 for a 30cm x 20cm the price is reasonable and the quality of the board (hevea wood) and the packaging is excellent and really pleasing to the eye. The postage of £2 is also reasonable and I think you will like your board enough to use it on the table as a serving platter too.

Wednesday 11 November 2015

Breakfast with Santa - The Kids Can't Wait!

I don't know about you but I've always had mixed feelings about taking the kids to meet Santa.  I know they love it when they are small but very often it costs an absolute fortune, you wait in queue for literally hours and it ends up being a massive anti-climax as your child hates the pound shop tat they are given as a gift.

It really has been a love:hate relationship in the past. The dreams I had in my head for that special white filled day where the kids smile the whole time and behave like angels often ends up with a meltdown and an early bedtime.  Well, no longer there is now a fabulous solution that both adults and children can enjoy together.

Monday 9 November 2015

Will you be Packing a Gift filled Shoebox this Year?

Christmas shoebox gift

Each year I share about my children packing shoebox gifts for children in other countries. We send these with Operation Christmas Child (OCC), an initiative run each year by Samaritans Purse, an evangelical Christian charity that I travelled to Belarus with, in 2012.

Every year I read the debate about whether people should join in with OCC as they are a Christian charity and each year it makes me smile when non-Christian friends point out that you can't have Christmas without Christ and is it really surprising that a Christian charity is spreading the message of God's unconditional love with a gift box and the opportunity to learn more about Christ if the recipient so wishes?

Whilst I'm totally happy with my decision to give via OCC and I feel sure they are not pushing Christianity onto unsuspecting children in other countries (I've seen a distribution with my own eyes after all), I do totally understand that some people feel dubious and would rather give through a different charity and there are loads. Have a google of your local area and I'm sure you will find an initiative often run through organisations like The Salvation Army, The Royal British Legion or The Rotary Club.

Sunday 8 November 2015

My Girls are Stylish this Winter with Vertbaudet

Winter can be an expensive time as you have to kit the kids out - new coat, boots, hats, scarves and anything else that was lost last season and all this just after you have sorted the September school uniform and before Christmas comes along to empty your pockets. So I am always glad to find somewhere selling winter coats at reasonable prices, especially if they are high quality.

This year Vertbaudet, the online and mail order retailer got in touch with me and introduced me to their range of coats and to be honest I was blown away. I am used to shopping in the high street stores or supermarkets where you have a choice of about 4 coats and if there is not one your child likes well it is tough really, as they have to have something and you don't want to trail around for too long! No such problem with Vertbaudet as they have 57 coats for girls and 33 coats for boys aged between 2 - 14 years.

Saturday 7 November 2015

Half Term Fun and Memorable Moments #GetPopped

What a great half-term week we have had. I wasn't sure whether to book a holiday but the kids all asked to stay home and just have some days out so that is what we did and it fitted in really well as just before half-term Popchips (the popped potato snack) challenged me to have six days of enjoyable experiences and to take a packet of Popchips with me for each.

They set the challenge to celebrate the launch of their new 6 pack multipacks, which are available in Sea Salt and BBQ flavours. I can genuinely tell you that I am so glad they set me this challenge as I'd not tried Popchips before and I really like them. As someone who needs to be cutting down on calories they are my new best friend at around 70 calories for a packet.

Popchips believe that every day should be filled with joyful and light-hearted moments and I set about capturing those. Not just the moments that you know are pretty special but also the ones that are easily missed and must not be taken for granted. I wrote recently about how important it is to choose joy and to make sure you live in the moment and delight in the small stuff.

Thursday 5 November 2015

Horrible Histories at The De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill

We had a fun family afternoon at the De La Warr Pavilion last Sunday. They had gifted us tickets to watch Horrible Histories, Barmy Britain part 3 and to be honest I had no idea what to expect.  The kids all watch the TV programme (well 8 year old Miss M and Miss E do as 12 year old JJ tells me he outgrew it years ago) but he still seems to have a massive collection of the books in his room but apparently reading is different, much more grown-up!

The one hour theatre show is billed as being suitable for children aged 6 years upwards and I think it was perfectly pitched. My kids have not been to many live theatre shows before and I think TV has spoilt them somewhat as they were a little disappointed there were only two actors in it, Neal Foster and Anthony Spargo. Neal and Anthony was fantastic though, so much energy and just bouncing off each other. They were the full works as far as I'm concerned.

I didn't expect to laugh so much at this stage show but it has a definite comedy edge to it. The audience were encouraged to participate in many ways with a sing along, calling out, clapping and one lucky little girl even got to go up on stage, one of mine would have loved that!

I thought the show was super clever, it was two men, one big travel case and two stacks of costumes and they dd everything in front of our eyes including changing clothes but it remained fun and the high-energy kept up the whole way through. We bounced our way though some of the major British historic events and we met King Charles II, the Puritons and Nelson. Here is a glimpse of some of the sketches -

Tuesday 3 November 2015

I'm a Good Enough Blogger, Are You?

I'll just go ahead and answer that question straight away, no point in leaving you hanging.

Are you a good enough blogger? Of course you are. We all are.

Who is it up to anyway? Who gets to decide what is OK and what is not with YOUR blog? This is your space after all, only you can say. You are the judge and in this case you are the jury and YOU get the final say.

Now I know some of you reading this might be arguing with me in your head or even shouting at your screen. "No Michelle, it is not all about me. There are so many people judging me - my readers, my family, other bloggers - the top bloggers even (*Yawn*), PR's, Companies etc etc. I have to perform, I have to do well, I have to work on my blog 24 hours a day, I must never take a day off, I have to grind myself into the ground, I have to be active on every social media networks, even those ones no-one has even heard of yet. I want to be a success. So. I. Must. Work. Super. Hard!

Well I think you are wrong, you don't need to satisfy anyone else in particular to be good enough. Let me explain.

Chestnuts, Chestnuts Everywhere - Photo Blog

We've had some fabulous weather just recently and the girls and I have been getting out and making the most of it. It is not always necessary to spend lots of money to have a great time together, getting outdoors and foraging for a sweet treat can be really satisfying.

The chestnuts are dropping by the dozen right now and we wanted to get some before all the deers ate them up. We headed out with some friends to go collecting and we didn't have to go far before we found an abundance. Between Friday and Saturday we collected a great haul and the kids got to partake in some of their favourite pass times - tree climbing and mud jumping!

 The golden nectar that we set out to find, they are stunning just to look at, let alone eat!

Sunday 1 November 2015

The Happiest Boy Alive - JJ is now Officially Amazing! #GWRLive! #GWR2016

Is that title enough to give it away?  Can you guess what my little man did last week?

He only went and bagged himself an official Guinness World Record (GWR), not everyone can do that, me included! Over the last four years our family has been lucky enough to attend four GWR events and both JJ and I have missed out on records by just one or two, thus our determination to get one for the family was pretty strong. So when we headed up to the GWR office last Tuesday I commented on Twitter that we were 'limbered up and ready to break some records'.  Little did I know it would turn out to be true!

Friday 30 October 2015

Embrace Autumn - Our Walk at Home #CountryKids

Now I realise not everyone is as lucky as us and doesn't have this kind of walk on their doorstep but literally everywhere is beautiful in the Autumn.  Even in massive cities there are public parks and green spaces where the leaves are changing colours and falling from the trees.

I swore when we moved to our unique home 27 months ago that I would never take the beauty of this place for granted and I don't think I have but our walk yesterday did make me realise I have also not been making the best of it and getting out enough.

It is probably six weeks since I have last been for a really long walk and taken my camera with me. The girls and I rediscovered the grounds at our home on this Autumnal walk and had loads of fun too. All these photos are taken around the estate that we live in.

Thursday 29 October 2015

Thank You Lord for My Boy

The girls had an inset day today and as a treat I drove JJ to school so he did not have to ride the bus which requires him to leave home 80 minutes before school starts. Today we drove the 11 minute car journey and wondered why on earth the bus journey takes such a very long time!

That's not what this post is about though. I was on the journey back home when I started to reflect on how very lucky I am that JJ sets his alarm and gets himself up in the morning. I have many friends with 12/13 year old children who have a battle each day to get their child up and dressed. I am truly lucky and very, very grateful that I don't have this fight with JJ. Of course it could all change, the hormones are arriving and it could get much more tricky but for now, I am just happy that he is generally a really good lad and great fun to spend time with too.

Wednesday 28 October 2015

U2 at The O2 - Inspired to Speak Out

I've been working with the NGO (non-governmental organisation) ONE for a few years now and my passion for the work they do continues to increase day by day. As they are not a charity seeking funding but a grassroots campaigning and advocacy organisation they suit me much better as a partner. I'm more comfortable giving voice to issues and allowing my voice to speak on behalf of those who can't be heard than I am at raising money.

One of the founders of ONE is Bono, the lead singer of U2 and as such my husband and I ended up as guests of ONE at the U2 concert at The O2 this week. To say it was good is a major understatement, U2 really know how to put on a show. Due to my poorly knee I had changed our standing tickets to seated ones at the last moment and this meant we were up in the Gods on the 4th floor.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Guest Post: Jesus is my Friend

Helping Hands by Shutterstock

Another guest post for you today in my series 'Why am I a Christian?'. This time from Nicola -

I keep trying to write this piece on why I'm a Christian and I keep getting stuck, or sidetracked! It's not that I haven't ever thought about it before - I've probably thought about it too much - it's that there are just so many reasons.

Firstly, I come from a place of philosophy - it's important that what I believe makes sense to me.  And I just can't believe that there wasn't a creator of all this intricate creation.  I see it this way - I'm a mother and I'm pretty convinced that my 'creations' cannot have things in them that I don't have myself - so if I, as a thinking part of creation, can love, then my Creator, God, must be thinking and loving...

I'm going to leave that one there, otherwise I'll get sidetracked into philosophy and that seems to go on to be something in the nature of a 10,000 word essay.

Sunday 25 October 2015

What do you Love about Mummy?

Earlier this week I went to an event at a local church, it was run by a charity called Care For The family and was called Mums the Word. It was sold as a night for mums to come together, have fun and be inspired. The speakers were Diane Louise Jordon, who you may know from TV and surely from Blue Peter if you are anywhere similar in age to me and also Cathy Madavan, who you might only know if you are a Christian.

I've heard Cathy speak a number of times at Spring Harvest and always really enjoyed her natural and friendly style; she doesn't fail to make you laugh. Add Diane into the mix and you have a great combo, the two of them genuinely seemed to get on like a house on fire and had a lot of parenting wisdom and humility to share.

There was far more content in the three hours than I could ever share in one post, so you can expect some more parenting/mums type posts over the next few weeks and that is no bad thing when I am still classified as a parenting blog but in recent times I've noticed that the subject is dwindling.

Friday 23 October 2015

5 Reasons We Do Not Celebrate Halloween

Image used with permission
I’m not a big fan of Halloween, I never have been. However as a child I was desperate to dress up and go out trick or treating with the hope of a night of fun with friends and a bag of booty at the end of it but as for the scary and ghoulish stuff no thank youI never did get to trick or treat as my Dad was adamant that no child of his would go begging door-to-door and I didn’t understand what his issue was when I was a child, I just thought he was a meanie. I get it now though.

I wrote a post about Halloween back in 2011 which was a bit controversial as I said if you celebrate Halloween you were worshipping all things evil including the devil himself. It was purposefully provocative to get people to think about Halloween and what they were doing. I wasnt actually saying that I believed many of my readers were devil worshippers, because who am I to make that judgement? Ive always been a live and let live kind of woman so I do feel it is your choice as to whether you and your children celebrate Halloween or not. We are all answerable for our own decisions and as long as we make them rationally and with all the information available to us then it is no-one elses business.

I do worry however, that many people just go along with Halloween as they have never really thought about what it is or what it teaches our children. This is when it becomes problematic. I have heard Halloween referred to as harmless funon so many occasions, just look at the 59 comments on my earlier mentioned post. Yes there were a few people that agreed with me that it was dark, best stayed away from, over-commercialised and teaching our kids the wrong things but most people thought I was a party-pooper. That's right, I'm the up-tight Christian woman who doesn't know how to have fun!

Thursday 22 October 2015

Guest Post: Why am I a Christian?

Close up Wooden cross necklace from Shutterstock
I'm sharing another guest post today, in my series to find out what inspires other people to be a Christian. over to Naomi -

I think the simple answer to the question ‘Why am I a Christian?’ is ‘Because of God.’ I did, I admit, go looking for Him, and He found me. I know that sounds confusing, and probably a bit over-spiritual, but I’ll share a bit of my story.

Having grown up in a Christian home, with Christian parents, going to church every week, I never really questioned the existence of God. What I did question was what I saw as a fairly restrictive lifestyle: a lifestyle where my teenage version of having fun was disapproved of; a lifestyle where my friends (none of whom were Christians) wouldn’t fit in; a lifestyle which looked very much about duty, and very little about joy.

I think a big factor in that way of thinking was that I didn’t have any friends my own age who were Christians. I was pretty much on my own in my parents’ church. Now, I look at groups of teenagers from my own church, and hope that they are actually friends, that they do hang out together. Anyway.

Monday 19 October 2015

BRITA Back to School Hydration Challenge

Recently BRITA (the water filter people) approached me and asked if I knew how much water my children were drinking when they are at school during the day. Of course the answer was no and if I'm honest I knew what the answer probably was - not enough!

I was therefore very happy when they sent me some of their superb Fill&Go water bottles (with nifty integral water filtration) for the kids to take to school each day.  As well as the bottle they also sent me some great ruler stickers to attach to the side of the bottle and these give visual reminders to the kids of how much to drink and by when. This ruler is based on official guidelines and recommends they drink 300ml by morning break, 600ml by lunch, then there is a lunch time reminder to refill the bottle and to have drunk another 300ml by afternoon break and the last 300ml by home time. Thus meaning they would have consumed 1200 mls between the hours of 8.45am and 3.15pm.

Saturday 17 October 2015

Finding your Joy in Every Day

This week I'm part of a video that has been put together by Michelle Reeves, who formally blogged at Bod for Tea and now at The Joy Chaser and The Essex Barn. Michelle and I first got chatting back in 2010 when she was an expat living in China and a fairly new mummy. When I started my Reasons to be Cheerful linky in January 2011 Michelle was one of the first to join in and it was clear even then that she wanted to seek out the joy and the good in life, turning her back on old habits of negativity.

You can read about Michelle's journey to joy and how she has found her new happy over on her new blog but being involved with this project has had me reflecting on the subject of happiness and joy and how for me they are very different constructs.

I know most people use the terms interchangeably and I think perhaps my perspective is different due to my faith. I view happiness as something very surface, usually dependant on external circumstances and it is normally achieved when everything is going your way and life (or a situation) is good. Whereas joy is always achievable, even in the darkest of times because it is an internal; found in our relationship with Jesus. It is a gift that He freely gives to us, in the same way He extends His grace. All these amazing things that we don't deserve and yet He wants us to receive them freely.

Friday 16 October 2015

Can Kobo convert me to an eReader?

I'm a bit behind the times, you can call me old fashioned but I don't mind. I have been resisting the lure of an eReader in favour of keeping my paperback books. I love the fact I can walk out of a charity shop with a bag of 5 books, all picked up for under a fiver. Second hand is my thing and it always feels like a real bargain.

What I don't love is the mountain of books that take over my house, waiting to be read. I'm very good, once a book is read it gets passed straight back to a charity shop but I do confess to have a whole big wicker hamper full of books waiting to be read. This could be a thing of the past though as I now have a Kobo Aura H20 eReader and it comes with 4gb of memory built in and the option to use a Micro SD card to boost it to 32gb, that would literally take thousands of books. 

Wednesday 14 October 2015

10 Ways to Share your Faith with your Children

Lake baptism at our home and my childrne praying

It's funny how things don't work out as you imagine sometimes. When Cass at Diary of a Frugal Family asked me "how do you share your beliefs with your children and how do you encourage them to have faith too?" I had this idea that I'd write a crowd sourced post. I'd ask lots of Christian friends how they share their faith with their kids and put together a treasury of ideas.

It was all very simple in my head but what I forgot to factor in is that sharing your faith with your children is the norm when you are a Christian. It is an intrinsic thing, something you mostly do without having to think about it or orchestrate any special activities. So when I asked the question in a fabulous Christian FB group that I'm part of the kind of responses I got suggested involving your children in your everyday life and this is very true and really valid but it doesn't perhaps help a non-believer or a new believer know the mechanics of what to do.

Monday 12 October 2015

20 Tips to get More from your Money

Money in Glass Jar by Shutterstock

Just over two years ago we moved to East Sussex from Hertfordshire and with this move came lots of change. I gave up my out-of-home job, we sold our house and dh took a massive pay-cut. Without a doubt it is the best move our family ever made but it didn't come without its fair share of challenges!

Due to the massive cut in our income we have had to look for ways to be much more creative with our money and to save spending out unnecessarily. I'm not the type to go without all my luxuries so we have had to shop smarter to get the things we need (or even just want). I thought it might be useful to share with you some of the ways that I have become thrifty and saved money along the way -

1. Pick your credit card wisely. We pay off our balance every month so interest rates hold no real attraction for us but we do like to choose a card that offers us a little extra. Our card comes with points for every pound we spend and then we can exchange these for restaurant, cinema and holiday vouchers. We gain loads of days and meals out in this way.

Sunday 11 October 2015

Our On The Glo Beanie - Fabulous but an Argument Creator!

As a blogger I get offered dozens of review opportunities every day and in the main I have to say no to about 90% of them. There is only so much time in a day and frankly I can't drum up the enthusiasm to wax lyrical about a tin of beans when I have parenting and real work to do.

Friday 9 October 2015

Family Visit to National Trust Attingham Park, Shropshire #CountryKids

A couple of months ago when we were on holiday in Shropshire we took a visit to Attingham Park. As we are members of the National Trust we always try to visit at least one of their properties wherever we are and our membership has paid for itself dozens of times over. I do love the freedom membership gives us as it means we are happy to go to an NT site for just a few hours, rather than having to take a whole day.

We arrived at Attingham Park about 2pm after a morning in Shrewsbury and we weren't quite sure what the weather would do so we headed straight off to explore the grounds and find the playfield that we had heard was fabulous. After a meander through the glorious walled kitchen garden, past the bothy, through a conservatory and across a small orchard we came to the playfield and no, we were not disappointed.

Thursday 8 October 2015

Guinness World Records Books 2016 - Great Christmas Presents

I mentioned before that all my kids love the Guinness World Records book and there does not seem to be any sign of them growing out of it. JJ is now 12 and the girls 8 and it is as popular as ever.

When the 255 page book arrived at my house a couple of weeks ago there was a scrum to see who would read it first. JJ being the biggest won and it remained in his bedroom for over a week. Each time I popped my head in his room he was buried in the book and told us the girls could not have it yet as he was busy reading and he was no-where near finished. This week I got a bit firm with him and now the girls have it back in their grips. This means the next few weeks of school car journeys will be full of chatter with all the kids I drop off discussing this years records and interesting facts.

Wednesday 7 October 2015

Guest Post: Finding My Faith Again

God Loves you from Shutterstock

Another guest post for you today. In this one Rachel of Rachel in Real Life shares her experience of growing up a Christian and then walking away from her faith and rediscovering it a decade later. What a difference ten years makes! You can catch up with Rachel on Twiiter too - @Rachel_IRL.


One of my earliest memories is of the day that I became a Christian. I was around six years old and it was the day of my mum's baptism. I can remember knowing what it meant to commit my life to Jesus and being absolutely sure that it was what I wanted. Although my dad never went to church he certainly never stopped any of us from going or made us feel uncomfortable for doing so. 

I was baptised when I was 14 and went on to help to run a youth group at 18. By 19/20 I had left the church and my faith behind. There wasn't a single event that made me leave but an accumulation of events and feelings. I never really felt as though I was a part of the church or that I had any friends there. Everyone seemed to be a better Christian than me, loved God more, were more holy, doing everything right, they were happy while I had started my battle with depression, a battle that would continue for years to come. 

My mum also felt unsupported which certainly influenced me. My mum died when I was 21 and neither myself nor my siblings felt as though we had much support from the church although I guess that was probably because her own attendance had dropped in the months prior to her death. I then spent 10 years not really knowing where I was at as a Christian. I still believed in God but I couldn't say with a great deal of conviction that I had a faith. I still believed in heaven but I couldn't be sure that I would be going there and I didn't know what that meant for me.  

Last year, after my youngest sister arranged for lifts for me, I attended an Alpha course and I started to go to her church.  During the first four weeks of my going there, I cried during every service. I came out with panda eyes and tear-stained cheeks, the husband would ask me what had happened and I simply couldn't explain but somehow, I knew I had felt just something of God's love for me. Earlier this year I had major surgery and was in hospital twice. A lot of people who go to the church got in touch, offering support and love and seemed to be genuinely pleased for me when I was back on my feet. People I have known only a short while have asked me how I am recovering and continue to ask after my health each week. 

What's the difference between now and over 10 years ago? Jesus has become personal to me and in the church I now attend I don't feel like I have to pretend to be filled with the Holy Spirit all of the time or to be immensely grateful 24/7. I have a thirst for more knowledge that I never had before and I am active in the church again, this time working with young children. 

There are, of course, difficulties. Jesus never promised us that a life following him would be easy, in fact he promised just the opposite. For me, the biggest challenge is that my husband isn't a Christian and doesn't ever come to church with me. A few months ago we attended a dedication and he enjoyed that service, even telling me he almost responded to ask for prayer but he didn't. Just this morning he said he might come along then decided against it. Unfortunately the service would have been the perfect message for him to hear but I have to trust that there will be another opportunity. 

My son comes along sometimes and I get upset when he doesn't, when he would rather stay at home with daddy because he does have fun when he goes. The husband is however very supportive of me attending church and of my Christian values. Despite not going himself he always tries to encourage our son to come along (sometimes he will even say he has to work when he doesn't, I'm not sure what God would make of that!) and he drives me the 20 minutes each way and picks me up because I can't drive myself. 

While Sunday mornings may be a bit of a write off for the husband being my personal chauffeur, our home life is actually a lot better. Yes I have changed as God has worked in me but so has the husband and I can see God working in him too, even though he may not even realise it. Despite being 32 years old, I still find it difficult to admit that I am a Christian. Sure it is easy enough to tick the box on a questionnaire but it isn't something I particularly bring up in conversations. We are viewed as "Bible bashers" or "weird" for having a "religion". 

The Christianity I know isn't full of rules and regulations and orders and religious practises but is one of love and simplicity. No Christian is any closer to God than another, none of us has sinned any worse than another despite what the laws of the land might say. Nothing I can do can make God love me any more or any less. I don't have to pray 10 times a day, offer myself as a sacrifice or convert people; He already loves me as I am, He always has and He always will.

Thanks so much for sharing Rachel, it sounds as if the recent leg of your journey has been a good one, I pray you continue to find great joy in your faith and that your husband will come to share it too.
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Tuesday 6 October 2015

Dear So and So - Welcome October

The West Lawn at my home

Dear Jesus,

Thank you so much for healing my knee. There I was last Wednesday ready to cry and in pain. My knee felt strained again like it was back in June and I was hobbling around. Gutted that I needed to cancel my weekend trip to Blog On Win and out of pocket to the tune of £55.

As much as I wanted to go I knew being sensible and staying home was a far better idea. Well how chuffed was I that after some considerable prayer I awoke Saturday morning to have a nice long bath and no pain in my knee. I'm again walking well and I pray this continues.

Thanks again mighty healer,

Love you, Mich xx

Sunday 4 October 2015

Review: Y Flicker Air A3 Scooter

For quite some time now my girls have been going on at me about the new style scooters, the ones that have split foot boards and you can ride them without putting your feet on the floor. Miss M has been the one, on and on she has badgered, can she have one and I said yes, if she paid for it.  They both have perfectly good regular scooters and I didn't want to be spending money out where I didn't need to.

It was for this reason that when I saw the Yvolution Y Flicker Air A3 Scooter available for review I applied straight away. When all three kids arrived home from school and saw the scooter box there was whoops of joy and both the 8 and 12 year olds were equally as happy and could not wait to try it out. I have to say I thought it would be Miss M that rode it most and would not be willing to give it up to the other two but actually it has been her twin Miss E who is besotted with her scooter. She has been ready at 7.30am each morning before school so she can have at least 1/2 hours play before school. I can not moan at that!

Friday 2 October 2015

Do you think she is trying to tell me something?

Miss M has a bit of an obsession. Can you guess what?

The other day she told me she was going to re-do her walls and make her room over, a couple of hours later I found this....

Tuesday 29 September 2015

Dear So and So - Body, I'm sorry you're falling apart!

Oh Mich,

Come on girl, we have had this conversation so many times. You have to change, you must eat differently. I know it sounds dramatic but you are slowly killing yourself. Do you get that?  Killing yourself. Yes that is what I said and you need to take notice. It is not good to be your size.

Why do you think your knee joints hurt and when you get up after a couple of hours on the sofa you can hardly move? It is not normal for someone of 42 to move about like they are 82. It will be the excess 8 stone you are carrying. That is, after all, the weight of a small woman.

There are so many routes available to you and frankly it does not matter which way you go but you just need to do something and dramatically cutting down on what you eat (particularly the junk) will make a really good start.

Stop being so busy with everything else please and just get to it. Carve some time out and give yourself space to exercise, sleep enough, drink more water and eat healthier.

You are worth it Mich, you need to start treasuring yourself in the same way you do others.

From your exasperated self

Monday 28 September 2015

LEGO Friends - How my girls love you! #LegoFriendsParty

I think Miss E's dreams came true at the weekend. She absolutely loves LEGO and more specifically LEGO Friends. Her bedroom is covered in posters, made up LEGO Friends sets, colouring pictures that she has printed off and junk modelling that she has created to be part of her LEGO world.

If you ask me I'd tell you it is all a bit of a mess and extremely hard to hoover around! If you ask her she will tell you it is a wonderful world and creates hours of fun and imaginative play for her and her sister and when put like that, how can I argue?

Miss E is just following in her brothers footsteps really. He has been crazy about LEGO since he was about 2 or 3 years old and was always building sets way above his age. Now at age 12 he is still creating his LEGO and wasting away a good few hours using his imagination and fine motor skills. I do love LEGO, it is a toy that never dates (some of JJ's LEGO came from my brother, who is now nearly 40) and it rarely breaks or looks old. Yes it might be a bit of an investment to buy a big set initially but when you consider the toy will last around 50 years (or even more) then it really is worth it.

At the weekend the girls and I were invited to go to a LEGO Friends party at LEGOLAND in Windsor and what a lot of fun each of us had. We invited my Mum to join us so we could have a real girlie weekend and after a night at the local Premier Inn and a big (and delicious) breakfast we headed to Legoland for a few hours of fun before the disco party commenced in the Legoland hotel.

Friday 25 September 2015

Good News - There has been Progress but we need more...

Today was a historic day and sadly it pretty much passed unnoticed in the UK. I find it so hard to understand why massive things happen in the world and the UK just seems to ignore them and let it pass us by. Or it is just that the media want to focus on all the bad happening in the world and anything with potential to be really world changing is relegated to page 52?

Today the Sustainable Development Goals were ratified by the 193 member countries and that's a big deal.

Why is it a big deal?

Because change happens when people come together. Back in 2000 the Millennium Development goals were set and I'm pretty sure many of you reading this have no idea what they are but just read on to see the results of them. In 2013 the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon announced that “The Millennium Development Goals have been the most successful global anti-poverty push in history.”
The target to halve the number of people living in extreme poverty has already been reached, as have the goals for improving access to drinking water and making conditions better for the world’s 200 million people who live in slums. There have also been marked improvements in primary education and health. Progress in the response to malaria, tuberculosis and HIV has had a dramatic impact, according to the report.  
Taking HIV as an example, the level of new infections in sub-Saharan Africa fell by 25% between 2001 and 2011. The Caribbean saw an even sharper decline of more than 40% in the same period. A record 10 million people living with HIV now have access to antiretroviral treatment and there has been a significant acceleration in roll out and uptake in the last year. (1)

See, this is massive stuff we are talking about and I hope you can see why I don't want the momentum to stop and why I'm so pleased that the new sustainable development goals (known as the global goals) have now been formally adopted.

The Global Goals set out to achieve 3 extraordinary things in the next 15 years -
1. End extreme poverty.
2. Fight inequality & injustice.
3. Fix climate change.

If the goals are met, they ensure the health, safety and future of the planet for everyone on it, but if the goals are to be achieved, everyone needs to know about them. You can’t fight for your rights if you don’t know what they are and this is where today's post comes in. This is just one of a series of posts over the next 15 years publicising the goals and (I pray) sharing the successes that have come about because of them.

Wouldn't it be amazing if our children are the first generation to live in a world where no-one is hungry? That could just be 15 years away....... Mind blowing, isn't it?

Have a watch of this short video and it will put it into perspective (in a fun way) why we have to strive on and fight for a better and fairer world for everyone.

Share your #GlobalGoals Selfie
Today thousands of people around the globe are sharing a selfie to help raise awareness of the Global Goals (remember we want to make them famous, so that world leaders have to act on them and keep their promises). Choose the goal that appeals to you most (see the image of the 17 goals below), snap a picture and share it socially. You can copy and paste the text below if you like or use your own words but just make sure you tag in @theglobalgoals or use the #GlobalGoals #TellEveryone #PrayerforEveryone hashtags as appropriate.

Twitter - “I’m passionate to #telleveryone about @TheGlobalGoals Visit & now you take a selfie & share”

FaceBook – “I’m passionate to #telleveryone about @TheGlobalGoals. My goal is (insert your goal here) Visit for more information & now you take a selfie & share the goal you want to see realised”

If you want to read more about the Global Goals then head over to the website.

If you would like to blog or share details socially about the Global Goals then please do come and join our Facebook Group and you can have access to the briefing document which should allow you to share easily (or I can email it to you if you ask).

(1) Source UNAids. Org
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