Friday 31 July 2015

The Beach - Where I'm Happiest!

This week I am on holiday down in Poole and unfortunately, the weather has not been the fabulous sunshine that I associate with this neck of the woods. Growing up as a child we holidayed in Bournemouth (just next door) every year and it was always blazing sunshine and lots of trips to the beach. My love of a sandy beach grew from there and the idea of walking along the prom looking out to sea on an evening, with all the bright lights of the pier and the calm swish of the waves crashing in grew as one of my favourite things to do.

I loved this area and being by the sea so much that I moved to Bournemouth for four years whilst I was at Uni and created so many wonderful memories - diving into the sea at 4am after the summer ball, sunbathing whilst I should have been revising for my exams and cliff walking with my then-boyfriend.

Thursday 30 July 2015

Well, well Disappearing Tweets and a #TescoFail

What a funny old day it has been, I've found myself checking my phone on and off throughout the day as a number of like minded people have seen my recent tweet to Tesco's and decided they too feel that Tesco have gone a little bonkers!

This is the tweet I sent last night at 11.07pm after visiting their store at Tower Park, Poole -
I'd heard earlier in the day that Tesco have decided to pull Ribena and Capri sun off their shelves as they are full of sugar and they want to help put a stop to childhood obesity.  OK, I am all for well-thought out initiatives that will go towards helping children make better choices. Education, workshops, promotional material, adverts and better labelling - all these things will help children make well-informed choices.

Will removing confectionery from the till areas and replacing it with sugar-free Red Bull energy drinks help my children to buy responsibly? No, I don't think it will. So that was why I tweeted Tesco last night because to be frank I'm outraged that my kids might now think that a sugar-free Red Bull is something acceptable and healthy for them to drink. Surely that is the message Tesco are sending?

Monday 27 July 2015

Dear So and So - A Relaxing Summer


Do you know what summer is for? It is for enjoying, for making the most of. For spending time with those you love, for making memories.

Let me give you a few ideas of things you can get up to whilst you are breaking the norms this summer -
  • sit on the bench outside your door on an evening and enjoy a cool glass of rose
  • wiggle your toes in the sand when you visit the beach
  • read a book in the park whilst the kids all play
  • enjoy three flavours of ice cream in one cone (that's right, push the boat out - all three together!)
  • enjoy a moonlit stroll with dh on the seafront
  • play tennis (badly) at the park with the kids
  • make some cards so you have a stock for future birthdays
  • make progress with your tapestry
  • bake with the kids
  • spend time with friends and make an effort to be sociable!

Sunday 26 July 2015

Help, I need a Bedroom Make-Over!

I'm exceptionally lucky to live in an amazing old stable cottage. It was built in the 18th century and you see from the outside how beautiful it is. Sadly inside it does not have any of that character and is a bit of a blank canvas. We've lived here for two years now and it was freshly painted for when we moved in and I tried to make it homely but interior design isn't really my thing. I now realise that having been busy working and concentrating on other things for the last few months I've let my bedroom become a bit of a mess - a right old dumping ground to be honest.

I realise I need to do something to get my bedroom back under control and actually I want to take it beyond that and make it a sumptuous space that my husband and I can really enjoy. I love to go to bed early and read as a way to chill before sleep but recently I've just been looking at the mess and stressing or staying up late to avoid it, neither are good for me.

Friday 24 July 2015

My Crazy Kids - Schools Out for Summer.....

One of my jobs this summer is to sort out all my photos and get them catalogued away. Today I made a start on this and came across some photos I took of the kids in their school uniform having fun last November. I've used the odd one on the blog but as a set I found them really quite funny and very telling of my children's personalities.

As JJ has now left primary and won't be wearing this uniform anymore, I thought I would put them on here so I can enjoy them in the future.

I asked them to model their school uniform as their actual school photos had been awful and this was the first shot they gave me! Bottoms up.....

Thursday 23 July 2015

Naming their Uniform made easy with Stamptastic

I think every parent dreads having to name their child's clothes and belongings for when they start or return to school in September. First you have the dilemma of what to purchase - labels that iron-on, stick-in, need to be sewn or will you go the easy route and just write their name on the label?

Truthfully though after ten years of naming things for nursery and school I've not found any of the methods I've used to be easy and efficient. Sewn labels do seem to last the test of time - they wash well and they don't fall out but the thought of sitting there for hours putting them all in is too much for me. 

I've not yet found an iron-on label that stays put more than a few washes and I tried labels that you attached with a little plastic pin a couple of years ago and they either abbreviated the girls skin or fell off pretty quick. So in recent years I have been writing on the labels with a sharpie laundry pen but even then it bleeds on some fabrics and I don't have the most neat handwriting, which also fades after a number of washes.

Recently I've heard a few blogger friends waxing lyrical about Stamptastic, a new way to name your kids clothes with a stamp and ink. I've not seen it done before but when I was handed a card at BritMums Live, I thought why not, lets give this a go!

Tuesday 21 July 2015

Dear So and So - Happy 8th Birthday Girlies

Dear Twinnies,

I truly cannot believe you are eight. Where have those years gone? You have grown so big and in some ways are wise beyond your years. In the last year we have really seen your relationship blossom and I am so glad that I persevered and insist you have to be friends. it is great to see you play together and stick together when you need to.

I had to laugh when we went out Saturday as a family to celebrate your birthday only for you not to be able to agree on a film at the cinema, so half of us went to Jurassic World and the others to Minions.

Oh well, we all got to eat our KFC together and share the car journey!

Love you both, Mummy xx

Sunday 19 July 2015

New to Netflix - July Update! #StreamTeam

I'm pleased to stay that nothing seems to stay too static on Netflix and there is always something new and different to watch. Here are a few picks that my family are enjoying and are happy to recommend right now. These first ones are recommended by my husband and I -

Orange is the New Black season 3 - I know so many people who were waiting for this new season of this Netflix Original to release on 11th June. I'm sue it won't disappoint you if you are a fan, as the successful formula is still there and the episodes will engage and move you.

Friday 17 July 2015

Being a Christian means...

Image Credit

At Britmums Live recently there were a few people shocked by my behaviour and I even got the comment 'you pretend you are a good Christian girl, but I know....' and this was said by someone I like and am friendly with and I don't for one minute think any harm was meant by it but it did get me musing this topic and wondering what it does mean to be a Christian? 

Now I've probably got you wondering what on earth I was doing to be making people question me but I assure you it was nothing more than most 41 year old women might do on a night out with the girls - have a few too many glasses of wine, talk loudly, be a bit rude, swear and make innuendos.

As I've pondered this question, my conclusion is there is no easy answer. Being a Christian means something different to many people, practically all of us who call ourselves Christians have at least one differing perspective. The Bible is a complex book open to interpretation in many ways and this means we all come away with a different take on what it means to be a Christian. However many people you speak to would tell you there is only one correct definition - their definition. That there are particular traits all Christians share - perhaps we are all loving, forgiving, sin-free and joyful all the time?

Thursday 16 July 2015

Kids Summer Essentials for Days Out by Car

As the Summer draws near talk seems to always turn to holidays. "Where are you off to this year?" your hairdresser will ask. "Going anywhere nice?" the supermarket delivery man questions as you sign for your groceries and if you don't have a big holiday planned it is easy to feel a little sad and left-out but fear not as holidays at home can be wonderful fun.

Whilst it is amazing to get away for a week or more it can be incredibly stressful when you have young children. I recall travelling with a toddler and baby twins in our seven seater and we literally could not fit another thing in the car as every inch of space was used - double buggy, 2 travel cots, booster seats, clothes, feeding equipment, toys, bedding. towels and so much more. All this 'stuff' of course means loads of unpacking and repacking and the dreaded washing.

Tuesday 14 July 2015

Dear So and So - Great Customer Sevice

Happy Customer Sign from Shutterstock

Dear British Rail,

I think you often get a bad press. People moaning about delays, cancelled trains, leaves on the track and I know that sometimes they are right but I've been super impressed with you just recently.

OK it didn't start so great when one of your operatives sold me the wrong ticket and it all could have ended up quite badly if your ticket inspector on the train hadn't believed me but he was great. He sold me another ticket and explained the situation patiently and he understood that I was going to complain.

So I used your on line complaint form via your web pages and within a few days you had come back to me. No questions asked, you offered an apology and you refunded me for the additional ticket I had to buy. Way to go British Rail, I was super impressed and I want everyone to know how fair you have been.

A very happy customer, Mrs Pannell

Monday 13 July 2015

What a difference six years makes

Left to right - 2007, 2008 and 2009

Well we are nearly there, just under two weeks and this school term will have finished and JJ will have left Primary school. He is so ready for Secondary school that it is untrue. I have had to coax him into school since his transition days just over a week ago.

It has been an amazing week from my point of view. On Tuesday the kids all ran through the door waving their report envelopes at me and they all did well. I am super proud of all three of them and particularly Miss E making such a lot of progress when she has her reading difficulties. That little lady works like a trooper to improve and to stay on target for her age.

This post isn't about Miss E though, this one is to mark the changes in JJ since he started school aged 4 years. I've sat here tonight and read through all his school reports from foundation stage through to year six and he is a very different child now. He has always been academically clever and once he moved into Key Stage 2 it became apparent that he was a year to two years ahead in terms of his academic attainment and he joined the Gifted and Talented Register for three or four subjects. However, his emotional and social skills were always the issue.

Saturday 11 July 2015

Shrek's Adventure! comes to the South Bank

If you are a fan of the Shrek films then this new major attraction on London's South Bank is sure to delight you. It is different to any other attraction I've ever visited in the UK and reminds me of a mix-up of a theme park, Ripley's Believe or Not and Madam Tussuad's all rolled into one.

After slowly plodding along the South Bank in a crowd so thick we had to hold tightly onto our children we were super pleased to see that the queue for Shrek's Adventure! was very short. I assume this is because it only opened on 1st July and perhaps it is not as well known yet as the other Merlin attractions like the London Dungeon that had an appalling queue. You can pre-book or turn up and pay but the attraction is timed and as it gets busier you would have a longer wait from buying your ticket to the time of entry I expect.

Credit Ratings - Do they even matter?

Credit Report Photo from Shutterstock

We hear talk of our credit rating constantly nowadays. Can I take a mortgage easily? Not sure, they need to check my credit rating. Well, surely I can take out a mobile phone contract? No, not so quick, again a credit check is needed to see how I score. It isn't just the big expenditure nowadays like buying a house or car that result in your credit rating being assessed it is also the more every day like monthly paid insurance and even some bank accounts. But I wonder how many of us really understand what it all means and more importantly how we can effect it.

So lets start at the beginning, what is a credit rating? Investoedia defines it as "An assessment of the credit worthiness of a borrower in general terms or with respect to a particular debt or financial obligation."

Thursday 9 July 2015

Looking forward to the summer...

As the summer holidays fast approach there is a palpable level of excitement rising in our house. This is the busiest time of the year for my dh so he is not so much excited as on high alert but the kids and I are on countdown. We have 13 days left at school as I write this and on the one hand it just feels too long, but on the other I need that time to complete my long to-do list and to be able to free myself up for six weeks of fun and laughter.

Last week JJ had his three transition days for secondary school and he loved it, him and his friend were convinced they could not go back to primary school for the last couple of weeks as they were 'just too big now!' However, we have a few key events left at school before they leave: last parents evening, last report, the school performance of the Wizard of Oz and the sure-to-be sad leavers assembly.

Tuesday 7 July 2015

Dear So and So - I'm 1 in a Million!

Dear ONE,

You are such an amazing advocacy and campaigning organisation and I'm really pleased to work with you. It is you who has shown me that everyday people like me have power. When we come together things can and do change.

Your Poverty is Sexist campaign that you launched back in March this year was provocative and pioneering but it is working. Thanks for updating me and letting me know that over 1 million people have now signed the petition and said that there must be equality between the sexes. It is not OK that millions of girls are denied an education, that hundreds of thousands of young girls are pushed into early marriage, that women cannot own the land they farm nor that so many lives are ruined through gender based violence or FGM (female genital mutilation).

I am so proud to be involved in the tireless work that you do. Thanks for believing in this small-time blogger.

Mich xx

Monday 6 July 2015

Legoland - So much more than just rides!

As I write this I am absolutely shattered, but shattered in a good way. We have done so much walking today it is unreal and just a few days ago I was praying hard that my hurt knee would be able to deal with even a fraction of the ground we covered today but God is good and knew how much my little ones were looking forward to our annual Legoland trip. Even more so this time as it was Clare and Jacob joining us whilst Daddy was at work.

New for 2015, Lego Friends Heartlake City
We've been to Legoland many times before but the thing I especially love about Legoland is that there is always something new to see, each year there is a new ride, re-modelled area or fun attraction. This year was no different and my 7 year old twin daughters have been on tenterhooks waiting to explore the new Lego Friends Heartlake City area. Both my girls love the Lego Friends brand and happily play together with it. Take a look at the pictures and you'll see just what they thought of this new area -

Friday 3 July 2015

Perfect Journey Stop - Avon Heath Country Park, Dorset

At least once a year we travel to Poole/ Bournemouth to take a holiday or mini-break, I love this part of the country and having spent a few years living there whilst I was at University it feels like a second home to me.

The coastal journey from East Sussex to Dorset is pretty long and there can be some horrendous delays along the way so by the time we reach Ringwood we are desperate to lett he kids get out of the car and to run some energy off. The Avon Heath Country Park is located on Birch Drive just off the A31 an it has everything we need (and more) when we make a stop-off.

Sibling Harmony Thanks to Lego Elves

Oh my word, if you could have seen my house last Thursday you would have been astounded, it was so quiet that you could hear a pin drop and believe me, that is not normal!  We came home from school and my twin girls found that a couple of sets of LEGO had been delivered for them to review, but not just any ordinary LEGO, it was two recently released sets from the magical LEGO Elves range. None of the children were familiar with this new range but they were all chattering away about how cool it looked, including my 11 year old boy.

Miss E got a massive smile over her face and Miss M's smile dropped as she realised that she would not be having the joy of making these up that day as she was being disciplined for some outrageous behaviour the day before. Then my 11 year old son JJ practically got on his knees and begged to be allowed to help Miss E make the castle as he is Lego crazy.

Visual instructions help my daughter with dyslexia
Miss E decided that she should make the smaller set herself and that JJ could help her with the big one the next day, which was a good compromise as I wanted to see how she handled making it alone, without any help. Both boxes are labelled as being suitable for 8 - 12 year olds due to the complexity of the designs and Miss E will be 8 in a few weeks but as she is dyslexic, some things can take a bit longer for her. I'm pleased to report that making the LEGO set herself boosted her confidence loads and she was able to do it all by herself as the instructions are of course visual, rather than written.

Wednesday 1 July 2015

Back to School #TipsAndTricks

I admit it, I am one of those awful annoying people that have all my back to school stuff ready just as the kids break up from school in July!  I know, I'm impossible, I've been told before but I can't bear the idea of spoiling my wonderful six weeks holiday with the kids by having to worry about how busy the shoe shop will be when I go along at the end of August with all the other parents rushing to get things sorted.

I realise I take a risk and they might have a massive growth spurt over the six weeks in the summer, but that seems to happen less and less as they get older, so I've not been caught out the last few years and to be honest if you are buying from a reputable shop most will take your items back (if unworn and with labels/ in packaging) to swap for a bigger size if it does happen.