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!