Saturday, 31 December 2016

#1GoodThing End of Year Round-Up

At the end of November I posted to say I'd be sharing a picture a day on Instagram and Facebook using the hashtag of #1GoodThing. This picture would sum up a moment in my day that was really good and I was grateful for. My aim was to stay focused on the truly important things during December when things can go a little crazy and it worked.

Therefore I'm going to keep going and it will be an ongoing project for me in 2017 sharing at least #1GoodThing every day in an effort to keep me grounded and thankful for all that God has provided.

If you want to join in with me, you are really welcome. I love to come and see the photos others are sharing with #1GoodThing and I comment and like all of them. I'm also hoping in 2017 that more people will seek out other photos with the hashtag and comment and like those and we will get some reciprocation and community going but I'm still very small fry on Instagram so we will see where it goes and I won't set myself any unrealistic targets that will tie me up in knots and make me feel useless if people don't get on board.

It is that same old nugget of staying true to your own goal and that for me is about being thankful and staying in the moment. Anything else that comes about is a nice bonus.

I've been doing a round-up of some of my favourite posts shared by others with the #1GoodThing hashtag for Advent (Week 1, week 2, week 3) and here is my final one of the year.

So excited to share this #BestNine2016 image from Vic Welton as it includes the pic where she revealed her much awaited pregnancy. All the love in the world Vic x

Friday, 30 December 2016

Boxing Day in Brighton - Sale Shopping and Ice-Skating

For as long as I can remember I have looked forward to the January sales, all sales in fact. We would have our family Christmas and all I'd hope for was money to be able to go and shop on 27th December. As of course when I was young shops didn't open on Boxing Day like they do now so I had to wait that extra day. Over the years I've grown less and less fond of shopping and now I hardly go to the sales at all but I do seem to have cultivated two young girls that have gained my love of shopping.

As Christmas starts early on 23rd December in our community by the time it gets to Boxing Day we are all ready to escape and thus two coaches arrived on Boxing Day morning and off we all went to Brighton. We did the same last year and it was a great day; friends and families split into smaller groups and we go off and do our own thing. My husband and son headed off for a waffle and then to the cinema to see Rogue One and us girls indulged in some sale shopping and a gorgeous Italian lunch, followed by ice-skating at the Pavilion ice-rink with about thirty other friends from our community.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Will You Be Watching the New Years Fireworks in London?

Photo Credit: Novotel

This year my husband and I will be doing separate things on New Years Eve. He'll be taking a group of our volunteers to Night Church in Hastings to ensure that anyone there on the streets has somewhere safe to drop in for a cuppa and a listening ear throughout the night and I'll be with our children at a community party.

We'll all have the day together, maybe taking a trip to one of our favourite National Trust sites for a frosty walk and then sharing an international dinner with around 80 other people in our community. Then once my husband has left it is party time (not because he has left you understand, just because that will be the start) with mocktails, games, dancing and lots of fun. I'm not sure if all the kids will stay up for the clock to chime twelve, we will see but whatever way it goes I know we will have fun.

I do miss our old tradition for New Years Eve though. When we lived in Hertfordshire my husband would work most New Years and we would all go up to London together and stay over in a central hotel. He'd then go to work late in the evening and watch the fireworks at midnight from the top of his building in Euston and the kids would fall off to sleep in the hotel room and I'd watch the magnificent London fireworks out of the hotel window with a glass of wine and some choice snacks.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Christmas Reasons to be Cheerful #R2BC

It's the day before the kids break up from school and I have tons of blog post ideas in my head but to be honest I can't be arsed to write any of them. It has got to that point when it feels more of an obligation than a joy to write and thus I am downing tools and having a Christmas break.

I'm not setting myself any rules or expectations, I'm just going to go with the flow. Bar wrapping my kids presents everything is done and ready, we have a couple of Christmas parties on Thursday and Friday and my parents and brother will arrive Friday afternoon to stay in the on-site cottage for a few nights. This is just perfect as it means we get to see loads of them but they still get time to relax after the kids have exhausted them and we don't all have to fall over each other in my small house.

Monday, 19 December 2016

#1GoodThing for Advent - Week 3 Round-up

Happy Sunday friends, I've been a tad busy again today and thus this is very, very late in the day but never mind!

I'm still really enjoying flagging one photo a day to highlight something good going on in my life. It definitely makes a difference for me to focus on the positive and I'm super grateful to those who join me with #1GoodThing.

I've picked four of my favourite pictures shared for this last week and I hope you enjoy them -

Don't forget if you want to join in, just tag any pictures on Instagram or FB with #1GoodThing and I'll be able to see them and will comment and like them. The reason I started this was to keep a positive focus during the month of December when so many people either go a bit crazy with the bigness of the festivities or some people, of course find it a very hard month in terms of missing loved ones and such.

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

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Hogwarts in the Snow - Our Family Visit to Warner Bros. Studio Tour

Last weekend we went up to Hertfordshire to visit my husbands parents and seeing as we were in the area we thought it really was high time that we visited the Warner Brothers Studio Tour again. After all, who doesn't love Harry Potter? The tour is advertised as being in London but it is actually on the outskirts of Watford and for me as a local of 15 years that will always be Hertfordshire. Not that it matters it just means it is super accessible by public transport from central London as well as being close to major roads such as the M25, A1M, M1 and M11.

It really is the easiest place to get to and with the brown attraction signs everywhere, you'll have no trouble. The parking lot is also enormous and has no charge which makes a nice change from many of the major UK attractions.You also do not get any traffic jams heading in and out, well we haven't on the two occasions we have visited and we went on weekends at peak times. 

The last time we visited was about two and a half years ago and I wondered how much would have changed but actually I can fully advocate a second visit as many things had changed and of course there is also the special Hogwarts in the Snow Christmas feature running at the moment, from Saturday 19th November 2016 to Sunday 29th January 2017. I notice that most of December is already sold out, so if you fancy going, get in quick and book your January tickets now.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

#1GoodThing a Day for Advent - Week Two, Sunday Round-up

Afternoon friends, I'm a little late with this today but I suspect no-one has noticed!

We are away at my husbands parents this weekend and this is the same area where we lived for fifteen years before moving to East Sussex, so it has been fabulous to catch up with some old friends and many of the kids Godparents. So nice to grab a decent cuppa in John Lewis this morning and catch up on their news, whilst the kids shared excitedly about what they had been up to as well.

In one weekend we have managed to see loads of people, not quite everyone but near enough. I had a great evening with my friend Kate who I've known since Uni and we did our usual of a take-away and some Saturday night TV as well as a look round her new gorgeous period cottage.

We also headed over to the Warner Brothers Studio Tour to see the making of Harry Potter. We have been there before and really enjoyed it but there have been lots of changes since we were last there with the addition of the Hogwarts Express train (so iconic) and the whole studio tour was decorated for their #HogwartsintheSnow feature with Christmas and snow displays.

It's been a great weekend to top off a fab week, which saw us enjoying a Christmas meal out with friends, having our pastoral group round to ours for a meal, where they cooked for us and we had food and people from eight nationalities around the table and we also had a good open afternoon at the girls school.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Video Review: Samsung AddWash WW8500 12kg Washing Machine

You know the M&S adverts, "this is no ordinary sausage roll this is an M&S sausage roll" and all those kind of things? Well this washing machine that I have been trying out is no ordinary washing machine, it is a Samsung AddWash machine with ecobubble technology and digital inverter motor, it is the pinnacle of washing machines and for me becomes my number one brand for laundry appliances.

I've had a few Samsung products over the years and I have to say they have lasted well, we have a small TV upstairs that we have had for almost two decades and the girls have Tab2 tablets that have taken such a battering and they are still going strong. Samsung is a name I trust and will happily buy but I admit I had no idea they did large kitchen appliances and now I am keen to let the world know how good they are. I said this to my Korean friend Eun Keoung when she came for dinner the other night and she laughed and said 'of course, they are Korean'.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

#1GoodThing a Day for Advent - Week 1 Sunday Round-Up

Good morning friends, I hope you have great plans for today. I'm off to church where my hubby and I are on children's group this morning so that will keep us busy and then back home for lunch and a chilled afternoon. Christmas movie and some wrapping might be in order I think.

I've enjoyed the first week or Advent, it has been pretty low key for me, I've started a great colouring devotional called 'Words of Grace', been super busy at Food Bank, spent some time with the little boy I coach and put all the Christmas decs up.

You might have seen that I am sharing one picture a day during Advent with the hashtag #1GoodThing, this is my way of staying grounded during this crazy season and making sure I look for the silver lining, the one good thing. It is a simple gratitude project, I did it last year and it worked well and hence I am doing it again.

I opened it up for anyone to join in and a couple of fab instagrammers have been joining in regularly and then a couple of others just dipping in. I'd love it if more people felt they'd like to take part and there are no rules, just tag your image #1GoodThing and ideally check out others using the hashtag. I'll come and like/ comment on all participating posts.

Here is my round-up of my 4 favourite posts from this week -

find them. #Thismamaloves #ukparentbloggers #kcacols #coolmumclub #HighlightsofHappy #capturingtheday xxx #capturemypositive #1GoodThing #aftertheplayground
A photo posted by After The Playground (@aftertheplayground) on

A bit of an Advent theme going on there but isn't that just perfect?

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

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Review: Leather and Canvas Personalised Holdall from Bags of Love

Oh my word, I am in love! Just look at this beauty that arrived this week -

Most weeks I receive an email from a company making personalised canvas prints or photo gifts and if I'm honest I groan a little as I have made so many over the years that I've exhausted the mug, mouse-mat, keyring, phone cover routes for gifts for people. I have to admit to being intrigued when Bags of Love contacted me though as they suggested I might like a personalised leather backpack and this was something quite different to anything I'd seen on the market before.

I headed over to their website for a search and what did I find? Absolutely tons of products that I have never seen personalised before - tea towels, blankets, duvet covers, wash bags, wallets, aprons, tea trays, bowls. I could go on and on as they have so many products to choose from and they all look stunning.

Yes, it really was gift heaven. My family are not easy to buy for as there is never anything they want, they are not material but what they all love most are their family, so personalised gifts with the grand-children's faces smiling out at them are just right.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Reasons to be Cheerful - Happy Advent!

As I prepared to turn my computer off last night at ten to midnight I suddenly realised that I hadn't done my Thursday #R2BC post and my heart sunk. Do I stay up and do it now or be sensible and go to bed? My sensible self won I'm pleased to say and off I went. I've now just got back indoors for the first time today and I realised I had better write my post straight away as some people might be waiting on me to link up but then boom, I realised it is December and thus the lovely Becky over at Lakes Single Mum is hosting this month. So there is my first reason to be cheerful!

Before sitting down to write this post I wondered what I might share this week. It has just been quite average and boring I pondered but actually I have a whole ton of reasons to be cheerful, lets go for one of my list posts. I know Rachel likes them!
  1. JJ went to a mates on Saturday for the afternoon and had a fab time. He seems to have found himself a really good friend since starting secondary which is ace.
  2. The girls and dh and I headed in Battle town for the start of the Christmas festivities, we enjoyed a Christmas tree festival at the church, craft fair, Santa parade and some yummy homemade cakes.
  3. Sunday I had an afternoon out with just Miss M and we enjoyed a massive burger together. it is so nice to have one on one time with each child.
  4. The girls have had their medieval banquet day at school so the costumes are done and the food finished. No more homework projects this year! 
  5. I got to have lunch out with dh as he was off work when the kids were at school. It was great to really catch up.
  6. Our car got washed, hoovered and cleaned inside. Believe me this does not happen very often.
  7. I have finished all the Christmas shopping, yay!
  8. I've started a fab colouring devotion for Advent called 'Words of Grace'. I am enjoying having a bit of time to just be and reflect whilst I colour in.
  9. I had a really good conversation with another blogger and she gt me thinking about a big project I started investigating a couple of years ago and then put down.
  10. There are no plans (I said NO PLANS) for this Saturday and can you tell, I am pretty excited about this? I feel like my to do list is never ending at the moment and this might be a chance to catch up.
  11. I have a new Samsung AdWash washing machine being delivered and installed next week and I can't wait as mine is so noisy and rubbish and I've never had such a decadent machine before, it is worth £1000 and I get to put it through its paces and review it.
  12. I've been offered a review holiday for next year. Our family were desperate to go abroad again after our wonderful first Spanish holiday this year so I pitched out to a couple of travel companies to see if they could help me and hurrah, one of them has offered me a holiday. Now I just need to find decent priced flights, which isn't easy in half term.
  13. I'm really enjoying my #1GoodThing a day project that I started on Instagram and Facebook. There has even been a couple of other join in which is cool.
A photo posted by Michelle Pannell (@michelletwinmum) on

I do hope you've been having a good week. Why don't you link up with Becky and share....

 Mich x

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

Monday, 28 November 2016

Shrek's Adventure! London - Our Review

Shrek's Adventure! London
Last Saturday the girls and I set off to meet our friends in London for a visit to Shrek's Adventure! This is perfectly placed by the London Eye making it easily accessible to many main line stations such as Charing Cross and Waterloo and the District, Circle, Jubilee, Northern and Bakerloo underground lines. We had booked our tickets online and this meant we had timed entry and didn't have to worry about any queues, result!

My family had visited Shrek's Adventure! when it first opened back in July last year (check out my full review from then) and we had a good time but there was one big niggle for us and that was the queueing internally. Well I am super glad to say that this issue really has been sorted out and it meant that we were in the attraction about 70 minutes, which is pretty close to the 75 minutes that the attraction advertise it as.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Join in with Me? #1GoodThing for Advent/ December

Last year during Advent I chose to relax on the blogging front and to express my gratitude for all the blessings I have in life by taking part in a visual record on Instagram and Facebook, sharing one photo a day with the hashtag #1GoodThing.

I really enjoyed it and it helped to keep me grounded and grateful during December and the run up to Christmas which can be a bit crazy, so I will be doing the same again this year and I wonder if you might like to join me?

My project will be for Advent, which is from Sunday 27th November through to Christmas Eve but if you don't celebrate Advent then your project could be for all December or the 24 days leading up to Christmas, just like an advent calendar but instead of a chocolate a day you get a blessing in the form of a photo and remembering just how wonderful your life is.
I learnt a long time ago that choosing to be happy and thankful is the major difference between living a contented life and longing for more, more, more.....
Of course things might actually be tough for you right now, I'm not trying to make light of that but I know from experience that lightening the load by focusing on something positive can really make a difference, so I encourage you to dig deep and join in.

I'm not strict either, I don't care about rules, so join in every day, some days or just once, whatever you fancy but any posts shared with #1GoodThing I'll like and comment on and then each Sunday I'll do a round-up of my four favourite photos from that past week on the blog here.

I hope this sounds like something you might enjoy.

Be blessed, Mich x

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

Family Fun at London's South Bank

Everyone in my family loves the South Bank in London, there is so much to see and do there and what I really love is that much of it you can enjoy for free. I have to be honest and say I'm not entirely sure how far the South Bank stretches but I'm sure you won't mind if i mention some places that are beyond the remit of the South Bank. Basically it is all easily walk-able along the river.

Shrek's Adventure!
We visited here last weekend and had lots of fun, my review will go live on Sunday but you can read how we got on last year when we visited for the girls birthday. The niggle we found back then has been totally rectified so they are doing a good job. This attraction takes about 75 minutes to go round and it is like an interactive theatre show. Something really different to everything else available.

Other Merlin Attractions
You can buy super value combo tickets if you fancy a day of high energy fun and so many of the attractions are all grouped together in the same area of the Thames. There is the London Eye, Sea-life Aquarium, London Dungeon all literally next door to each other.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

I really can't grumble - Reasons to be Cheerful #R2BC

Morning friends, how are you this week? I'm well, despite numerous aches and pains that I am sure would suit a body at least thirty years older than mine! lol

But enough of my niggles, it is Thursday morning and that means for me and the cheerful gang that we will share the reasons this week why we are feeling grateful. There are so few of us who join in with this linky nowadays that it would be really tempting to just give up and to be honest there have been a couple of times I've handed over the reigns and walked away for a bit but I can't get it from under my skin. There is nothing better than giving thanks and acknowledging that there is always a silver lining, a glimpse of blue sky and that when we choose to approach the world with a thankful heart even the roughest times can be got though.

I've learnt so much from some of the women who have (and still do) joint in with this linky over the last five years. Thank you especially to Becky, Candi and Rachel who tirelessly post and encourage me to look again at my own life. I am especially thankful that Reasons to Be Cheerful gave a prompting to some people in their darkest times and helped them through a rough patch.

If you are new here this week, why don't you join us? All you need to do is link up a post that is making you cheerful, one where you share your gratitude, or boast about your kids or look for the silver lining?

Thursday, 17 November 2016

A Child Free Weekend in London - A Big Reason to be Cheerful!

Happy Thursday, I hope you are all having a wonderful week.

I've had a great week, it has been pretty low key but the weekend was superb as my husband and I got to go and stay in London together without the kids. It happens once or twice a year and you just can't put a price on the value of that time alone as a couple. So thank you Annie for looking after them so well and they had a ball with you, there are not many babysitters they ask for again.

Quiet Train Ride 
We set off fairly early Saturday morning so we could make the most of the day and it was great to spend 90 minutes just chatting without any interruption. I had downloaded some programmes to watch and taken my book and I didn't need either. Hubby was on good form and good company! lol

Premier Digital Conference
We attended the Premier digital conference during Saturday and had a good time. Neither of us had particularity high expectations as last years conference was a little basic for us but they had upped their game and the stream for experienced bloggers was way better. I particularly liked the sessions on legalities and vlogging. I've made a promise to myself that I'll vlog once a week from Jan, ekkk. I better start getting in some practise.

I was a finalist in two of the award categories for the Premier Digital awards for my faith blog Progress Not Perfection. We didn't go to the awards in the evening though as I already knew I wasn't a winner or runner up and sadly they only pay for those tickets and the cos was beyond our means.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Rediscovering Netflix

I have a little confession to make - Netflix has been sitting there unloved for a few months. I went off and had a little love affair with another on-demand TV provider and shhh, don't tell Netflix but I liked it.

This other service seduced me with more variety, newer films and shows my kids love but then.... it went and started to change things. The kids channels were no longer included and the price of having variety was nearly £20 a month so I let them go and here I am, back with my first love Netflix and rediscovering all it has to offer me for less than half the price.

Here a few recommendations of shows/ films my family are loving right now -

White Collar - I adore this box set so much. I am on season 4 now and the plot just gets better and better. Of course it helps a lot that the eye candy is so good and I'm not sure about you but I find it so easy to fall in love with TV characters, Matt Bomer who plays Neal Caffery is just divine (but also gay in real life!).

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Can you Give-up a Tub of Quality Street to help the Homeless this Christmas?

I wrote in my other blog recently how I'm going to be helping at a pop-up winter night shelter over the next few months. It's not something I've done before and truth be told I don't feel that equipped to do it but I know that after I've attended the training I'll feel more confident and to be honest, with God by my side I'll be able to do anything that is required of me.

Whilst I'm focusing my (small) helping efforts here, others have it so much worse. Can you imagine having no place to sleep and then the temperature drops to minus 9 and stays at that temperature? Back in 2012 I travelled to Minsk in Belarus for a week with the charity campaign Operation Christmas Child. Our remit there was to deliver shoe box gifts to those in need and as such I saw a great deal of poverty and met many children living in orphanages.

As I read some of the stories that MissionWithout Borders (MWB) have shared with me for their Street Mercy Project I was transported back to my time in Minsk and meeting all those gorgeous kids who were living in homes with holes in the roof (literally) and having to deal with the issues of abandonment and neglect by parents who have been driven to binge on cheap home brewed 100% proof vodka.

Friday, 11 November 2016

10 Reasons to Visit Nymans, National Trust - West Sussex

During half-term we fancied out a day out at a National Trust site, our son was staying with his grandparents, so it was just the girls and us and we wanted to visit somewhere new to explore. About an hour away from us in West Sussex, just five miles outside Crawley is Nymans, which the National Trust describes as a garden lovers' home for all seasons, with an extensive yet intimate garden set around a romantic house and ruins.

It is a busy enough site that they have regular trails and activities for all the family and we felt sure there would be something to keep us all interested. We weren't wrong, have a look at these ten reasons why we would recommend a family visit to Nymans - 

1. Loads of Opportunities for Play

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Bloggy Reasons to be Cheerful

Happy Thursday friends. I hope you are well and managing to keep a smile on your face in the wake of the US presidential elections. All is good here and I'm feeling tip top.

Just a short post this week as I'm super busy but the reasons to be cheerful that I'm sharing are all blog related. It has been a fab week and in fact I am feeling really good about blogging at the moment. Maybe after 8 years I have finally found my happy place and feel confident in what my blog is and where I fit into the web-sphere.

Viral post
I've been a fan of Operation Christmas Child for about 13 years now and every year my family enjoy making shoe boxes. In 2012 I was lucky enough to travel to Belarus with them to give out shoe boxes and present some live webcasts. There can be a lot of negativity about Samaritans Purse, the charity that runs the Operations Christmas Child programme so I wrote a post this week about the reasons you might not want to take part and it has gone viral. My best page views in a very long time and a very decent amount of shares on Facebook too. 

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

8 Reasons Not to Take Part in a Shoe Box Appeal (Operation Christmas Child)

Shoebox header

Christmas, it is a time for giving and for receiving but for me, much more than that it is a time of goodwill, for thinking of others, for being generous and for reaching out.

You'll see lots of blog posts at this time of year from people taking part in shoe box Christmas gift schemes (particularly Operation Christmas Child) and your children might come home from school, church or something like brownies with a leaflet asking you to help and make a shoebox of gifts for a child, family or elderly person in need.

What do you do with this leaflet? That request from your children? Because let's be honest most kids want to get involved, their heart is to do something kind.

Do you bin the leaflet and hope your kid will forget? Do you tell them 'No, we are not getting involved as that charity is making kids become Christians'? Do you quickly remember how low your bank balance is and decide that £10 would be better off spent on your own child? Or maybe you adopt that age-old opinion, that charity starts at home.

Let's be honest, it is completely up to you what you do. No-one has to do anything they do not want to and no-one has the right to judge you for your choices. You just have to be happy yourself with what you choose to do or as the case may be, don't do.

Friday, 4 November 2016

The Benefits of Time Outdoors for all the Family

Just over three years ago our family took the brave decision to sell our house and move away from the area we had lived in for fifteen years. My husband and I both changed jobs, the kids changed schools and we swapped a town and being close to London for the countryside and being close to the beach. It was the best thing we have ever done!

At the time we moved the children were 6, 6 and 10 years and becoming increasingly accustomed to indoor play, multi-media activities and days out to theme parks, swimming and the like. Yes we took them to the play park and we would sometimes walk around a local lake but there was no-where near enough time spent outside just enjoying being kids, breathing in the fresh air and running free.

When you live on a main road and children are not allowed out to play it really does restrict their freedom and imaginative play. Here in Sussex we live in 220 acres of land and the kids have friends who live in the same community and they go and collect conkers, play make believe in the church yard, skate on the private roads or organise mini sports days on the west lawn. The world is their oyster and they have so much freedom to play here.

"For a new generation, nature is more abstraction than reality. Increasingly, nature is something to watch, to consume, to wear – to ignore." Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

It's Thursday and that is a Reason to be Cheerful

Happy Thursday Fiends, I hope you are well. Welcome to this weeks edition of Reasons to be Cheerful.

I have a very busy day today but I am loving Thursdays at the moment.

1.  First off I have my coaching session with a little boy that I am meeting once a week for a year and it is a real joy getting to know him. I'm praying that I'm able to make a difference in his life and to help him enjoy school more. Check out the charity TLG if you are interested to volunteer to do the same they run this service in schools all across the country.

2.  Then straight after I head off to my coached run, where I will be put through my paces by the lovely Jax. Running isn't at all what I would choose to do but I have to do some exercise and this is as good as anything. It also helps that it is funded and fun. I definitely want to give a shout out to Jax's blog Walk2Run as it is really inspirational and if you are local to Bexhill/ Hastings then you must come and join one of her fun walks or coached sessions, she is ace.

3.  I've then got a delivery to make and a quick rush home for a shower and lunch before being at the girls school for their parents evening at 2.30pm. I'm praying that this goes well as I need to speak to the teacher about Miss E as she is already getting really concerned about her year six SATS. I'm not sure if I need to push for another formal dyslexia assessment or not.

4.  We are then off to JJ's school for a special awards ceremony where he will receive a prize for work of excellence in IT last year. He is very chuffed and I am super proud. This is the boy that we all wondered whether he would be able to settle into school or if it would always be a struggle for him.

Then once that is done, it is home for dinner and relax......

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

8 Ways to Prepare for Baby Number Two

Image Credit: Boy cuddling pregnant belly from Shutterstock

You've found out you're pregnant, you've had the three month scan and all is looking good so now is the time you can start to tell all your friends and family and spread the joy of knowing that a new babe will soon join your family. Of course you are excited, but if you are anything like me you'll also be a little nervous and maybe even overwhelmed. Your family of three will never be the same again!

How you feel might well depend on the age of your first child and the potential gap you'll have between your children. According to the U.K. office for National statistics the average age gap between a first and second babe is about 36 months, although I have friends who had as little a gap as 8 months by falling PG with a newborn and then having their second baby prematurely. That really would scare the pants off me! My age gap was a much more sensible 45 months but the tricky part for me was that babes two and three came at the same time of course!

To help you beat that feeling of being weighed down with worries of what might be it is important to get prepared for your second babes arrival. Try and get all the practical things but of the way nice and early and this means if you do feel tired or poorly later on in pregnancy you are not stressing about all the tasks still to be done.

Monday, 31 October 2016

10 Fabulous Tween Girl Christmas Gifts for under £25

The big C is practically here and if you are anything like me you want to be getting organised and be able to tick some of those gifts off the oh-so-long list.

My twin girls are 9 going on 13. So I thought I'd share this list of ideas of what to buy for your tween (8-12 year old) girl.

1.  Smiggle is such a massive hit with my girls and all the kids in their class to be honest. So you can't go wrong with any gift from there but how about this gorgeous DIY journal. It retails for £18 and with the cute fur heart detailing on the front and the stickers, glitter and gems you can style it any way you fancy.  Of course you have their iconic pop-out pencil boxes with all sorts of pop-out drawers and left up pen rack. The newest ones are even smelly - good smelly of course and you can invest in one of those for £15.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Autumn Half-Term Break: A Big Reason to be Cheerful

Each year I plan our families holidays and realistically if I'd wanted to I probably could have secured us a review holiday this October break and of course it is always really tempting to get away together but sometimes I think it is just as important to be at home and to appreciate what is around you.

Over the last couple of years my parents health hasn't been as good as it used to be and this has meant that my kids haven't been to stay with them, much to the dismay of my children. So with the kids a little older and Mum and Dad feeling a bit better we arranged that Miss M would have three nights staying there alone and then JJ would go for a few nights after.

Miss E was quite happy to stay home and have mummy time and she knows she is next in line for a stay at her grandparents and that is something to look forward to. I am so lucky that my kids adore my parents, just as I do.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Desenio - Kitting our House out with Gorgeous Prints

I have to be honest, I don't have the best eye for interior design. I know what I like and I'd love to be able to create something really eclectic and beautiful but I just don't seem to have been born with that skill. My house is always very comfortable but quite safe in its decor and things often match a little too much rather than compliment.

When got in touch to ask me to review some of their prints I was a little scared at first. Yes there are hundreds of gorgeous poster and print designs in their shop but how would I know what works well with what? I needn't have worried as their inspiration and beautiful partnerships sections are great. Just what I need to spark some ideas of how things can look really stunning. I now know that mixing frames, print sizes and inspirational quotes with images all work fantastically.

I was a bit blown away when I started to search their web shop. There is so much variety and with starting prices of £2.29 for a 5 x 7 poster it doesn't have to be expensive at all to buy something gorgeous. It is also impressive that the 8 x 12 'Life is' quote (£4.49) and white wooden frame to match (£6.57) that I got as a gift for my niece, cost just £11.06 and that is her Christmas gift sorted.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Reinstating our Date Nights with Pistachio and Orange Crusted Lamb #MiniRoast

Date night in Hastings earlier this year

My husband and I have been married for fourteen years now but together for twenty-two and with three tween and teenage kids it can be hard to find the space to make time for us to just be a couple. 

Sometimes (no idea why) we seem to be better at this than others. If I'm honest we have not been great at carving out time for ourselves in recent months, we've stolen moments after dinner to chat or had the odd cinema night but we've not had a really good long chat for some time. I think the last time might have been the beginning of May when we went for some food and then had a long walk along the seafront in Hastings and visited the new pier. I do love those times when we have no agenda and we just wonder and chat about whatever is on our hearts at that point.

I've realised that I do need to be more intentional again and make sure we are having the opportunity to have those special times together. One of the barriers is how often we are in the house on an evening together. At the moment this is only a Wednesday and Saturday and I have to admit that I love a full family Saturday night with snacky food and trashy TV, so that just leaves Wednesdays but a week night isn't always ideal after dh has been at work all day and the kids have homework. I'll have to be a big girl and give up my trashy Saturday night TV every once in a while as well as making time on a Wednesday.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Reviewing the Vileda Easy Wring and Clean Turbo Mop

Over the last couple of weeks I have been trying out the new Vileda Easy Wring and Clean Turbo Mop and it is fab. What has really surprised me is that the kids love it too and are eager to mop the floor. Let me tell you, this has never happened before! I don't know if it is because the new easy wring bucket makes it so simple to get a near-day mop to be able to clean the floor without too much fuss or because they are currently earning points for one-on-one time with either me or my husband but it is a big hit. The floor has never been so clean.

The easy wring and clean turbo mop has an RRP of £34.99 but I have seen it for £29.99 at Argos and you get everything you need in that price. My personal recommendation would be to buy direct from Vileda at the moment though as they are chucking in a free replacement head (worth £5.99) with the set for the RRP.  The mop and bucket arrive neatly packaged in a box and are super quick to put together. I'm impressed that it is a sturdy product built to last and that you can buy replacement heads.

Friday, 21 October 2016

National Trust: Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent

A couple of weeks ago when my parents were visiting we decided to take a drive over to Kent and visit a new National Trust site. Regular readers know that I absolutely love a day out at a National Trust site. That combination of history, stunning buildings, well-kept gardens, space for the kids to run, the chance to really use my camera and a decent cream tea certainly do entice me.

I've known quite a few friends come to visit Sissinghurst Castle Gardens before but to be honest, I've resisted as it isn't the biggest NT site and it is mostly outdoors but I was just being silly as it is a lovely site and generally the kids enjoy the outdoors part far more than the houses anyway.

We didn't arrive until about 2pm on a Sunday afternoon and then needed to head off about 5pm and this felt the perfect place for a three-hour visit including a cuppa. There were still plenty of parts of the site that we didn't get to see in that time but that really is the beauty of NT membership, you know you can come back again another day so you don't have to rush or worry.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

12 Signs You're Doing OK as a Parent of a Teenager

My JJ is now 13 and as tall as many kids 2 or 3 years older than him. He is also very intelligent, quite wise and great fun to be around. Yes there are the odd 'Kevin' (of Kevin and Perry fame) moments but generally he is a sound lad and will do what is asked of him.

Who knows if we have all the troublesome years ahead of us, maybe we are just getting away with it easy now and the future will be a nightmare but I won't start worrying about that just yet.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Review: Ibis London Excel Docklands Hotel

I'm now the proud parent of a teenager as JJ turned 13 just over a week ago. When I asked him what he wanted for his birthday he said money or Steam (online gaming) vouchers from all the family but from Dad and I he'd like an experience rather than a present.

A couple of years ago for Christmas he was stuck for what he wanted as a gift and I booked him and my husband to have a weekend in London together. They had so much fun that JJ wanted to do the same again. So I approached Ibis to see if they might like to host my two boys for a night and they were fantastic and the Manager of the Ibis, London Excel Docklands said he would love to offer them a nights stay and breakfast the next morning.

We already had plans to spend the day as a family at Kidzania on the Saturday but I suggested to JJ that the girls and I could then get the train home and he and my husband could stay on and have some fun. They chose to stay in the Westfield Centre, Shepherds Bush and go for a gourmet burger and to see the movie Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, which they both said was really good.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

950th Anniversary Celebrations for the Battle of Hastings

We've had such a fun family afternoon and the best thing about it was that it was pretty impromptu. We've obviously known that it would be the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings this weekend and that the reenactment was happening at Battle Abbey and battleground this weekend but we hadn't really planned to join in as we've been to the reenactment before and we knew that Battle town would just be crazy busy with tourists.

Then on Monday the girls school sent home a letter saying they they would approve leave for this afternoon if the children wanted to be part of the town festivities and of course they did. At 2.15pm this afternoon this was a parade of more than 600 local school children (including many from my kids school) led by a military band, activities in the library and crafts in the memorial hall. So we planned to spend the afternoon in Battle town and it is close enough for JJ to walk and meet us after he finished school.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Kidzania - A Kids Paradise in London's Westfield Centre

I've been dealing with a very tired 9 year old today, she didn't get to sleep until gone 11pm last night and now she is jumpy and hyper-sensitive. Thank the Lord that our 1pm arrival time has come around for entry into Kidzania as she may now finally calm down a little and settle in to her afternoon of fun!

At the beginning of the year my 9 year old twin girls came to Kidzania with their school class and loved it. It was all they talked about for a couple of weeks. So when it got close to JJ's 13th birthday and he said he fancied a visit too, I jumped at Kidzania's offer to host our family on a date of our choice. We visited on Saturday 8th October for the 4 hour slot commencing at 1pm and I expected it to be heaving but thankfully I was wrong (although the girls tell me it was busier than the school day they had last visited).

As our tickets had been booked in advance for us we had printed tickets and this meant we could head straight inside Kidzania and go up the three floor to the British Airways departure lounge. Check-in was easy and the member of staff very smiley and friendly, he certainly knew how to relate to kids. He checked if the kids had any allergies or additional needs and fitted us all with a security bracelet. This meant the kids couldn't leave without my husband or myself and it also acts as a location tracker.

They were handed 50 kidZos each (money just available for the children to earn and spend in Kidzania) and the girls explained to their brother how he earns or spent them. Miss E had saved some KidZos from her previous visit and thus had enough to open a bank account if she wanted. This was the cause of great excitement.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Miss E's Dream Horse from Petplan Equine

Anyone who regularly reads my blog will know that Miss E is very crafty and loves to make things and Miss M is animal crazy. It is hard to walk along the street without her constantly stopping to pet every dog she sees and it is lucky for me that we can't have pets where we live or I'd never hear the end of it. Miss M has only ridden a horse a couple of times but she has really enjoyed it and I'm sure if we had the means she would be asking for lessons like her friend Lucy.

When Petplan Equine got in touch and asked if the girls would like to draw their dream horse and then have it made into a real toy they were both excited to be part of it. We got ready with loads of crafty items and they sat down together and started to design their horse but low and behold true to form Miss M was bored within the a short time and asked Miss E to finish the horse off alone.

This is the horse that Miss E came up with, his name is Valentine and I think he is a bit of a dandy horse with his silver cowboy boots and bowler hat. He also has brown and gold wings for those times when his legs just won't carry him any further.

Have a watch of the video and Miss E will introduce you to Valentine, the horse she drew and also the unique Valentine toy that Petplan Equine had made for her to keep.

Friday, 7 October 2016

8 Great Places to Visit as a Family from Bournemouth/ Poole

As a little girl my family often took me on holiday to Dorset, to Bournemouth and Boscombe to be more precise and through those visits my love for the area grew. So much so that I then lived there for three years whilst at University and boy what fun did I have. Again my love to the area heightened and it was naturally the place that I then took my kids to recreate all those fabulous childhood memories.

It's been quite nice for the last three years as my parents and more recently my brother have joined us for a weeks holiday in Poole and thus we really do create some of the old memories. I thought it was high time that I shared some of our favourite places to visit as a family when we are staying in the Bournemouth/ Poole area of Dorset.

1.  Blue flag beaches
This really is the obvious place to start as Bournemouth and Poole (particularly Sandbanks) are renowned for their glorious sandy beaches. Numerous awards have been won and many areas have lifeguards during the summer months so you can enjoy them safely with your family. A personal favourite of ours is Alum Chine as it is never too crowded, there is a lovely play park right close to the sand and you can catch the land train along the promenade to Bournemouth town centre. Parking is limited so we tend to park on street for free and walk through the beautiful chine to get to the beach. Sandbanks is also amazing but can get much busier and the parking is more expensive too.