Saturday 30 July 2016

Cliff Walking this Summer - National Trust - East Sussex

One of the advantages of living on a small island country is the amount of amazing coastline we have to explore and it's not all the same, the diversity of our coast is amazing and makes for some wonderful trips across the UK.

Whilst it's nice to visit the beach, we often enjoy the contrast of walking along the cliffs and being up high. Luckily for us, we are only about 30/40 minutes away from the National Trust maintained coastline that is the Seven Sisters/ Birling Gap and Beachy Head. There is no entry charge to explore the area and parking is just £2 for a half-day o£4 for the full day so great value.

We have been here more times than I can count and we often take the mini-bus so we have a ton of people with us to enjoy the glorious views and fresh air. At the beginning of July, we took a party of 16 people and had a great time skimming stones on the beach, jumping the waves and then walking the cliffs of the Seven Sisters.

One thing I can't fail to say is that you MUST stay away from the edge. Please keep at least 10 metres back from the edge as chalk cliffs are prone to falling away and there has been so much erosion over the last few years. You really can't be too careful!

Let me share a few photos from our fun day -

You can see the National Trust cafe, shop and Visitor Centre in the bottom right corner and the metal steps that extend out from the cliffs and allow you to walk down to the pebbly beach. When the sea is out this is a wonderful place for rock-pooling.

You can get a great cream tea here with amazing views, it is worth the drive up for that alone!

Thursday 28 July 2016

That’s Important

As I wandered around my house this morning making beds, opening curtains, collecting up the dirty laundry and emptying bins I was musing to myself about how important those functions are. No, of course they don’t make a successful home, you can easily get by and be perfectly happy with a half-full bin or an unmade bed but for someone like me who likes order and tidiness they are important.

Yes I could make the kids do all those things and sometimes I do but in the main I like looking after my family. That is one way I show them how much I love them by tending to their needs and even pre emptying their needs. Being a stay at home parent is hard work and really valuable work and it has taken me some time to fully acknowledge this for myself.  I’ve always hated the rivalry between parentsfollow that choose different paths, those who work outside the home, do paid work at home or stay home without any remuneration at all and I choose to champion all causes. Like everything in life I feel you need to do what suits you, what really makes you feel grounded and content, not what society expects or you push yourself to do and certainly not what pays the most money.

Over the last thirteen years of being a parent I’ve taken on each of those roles and what I have discovered is that they each have their own unique challenges and there is no one right universal choice. We all have to make the choice that suits us, our personalities and our circumstances. I personally found working outside the homefollow the hardest by far but that could be because I did it when my children were younger and I also still undertook voluntary work and looked after my home without any help too.

At the moment I have the joy of being home, dabbling in a little paid work, doing lots of voluntary work and really having time to develop my relationship with the Lord and my children. I don’t often have to feel compromised anymore like I did four or five years ago when it was my of the kids assemblies, but I was due to be delivering a training course and then I realised I had forgotten to book their lunches too! Those times were just overwhelming when I would race home after work to pick the kids up from after-school club, chuck some food in the oven for them, bombard them with spellings and timetables questions whilst I cooked and then race out the door again to Cubs, gymnastics or Rainbows.

Yes, the change to a slower-paced life has been really good for me and for my family too but it has taken me nearly three years to fully accept that it is OK for me to sit in the morning and read my book for an hour or to enjoy a coffee alone on the return trip from the school drop. Those snatched moments of peace and reflection are when I am renewed and ready for whatever the kids present that day. Let’s be honest, it’s not as if I get to sit down in the early evening, everything keeps going until eight or nine at night and the smaller ones are finally tucked into bed.

Thank you Lord for bringing us into circumstances when I can start to learn that I am loved for who I am and not just what I do. Even if I have ticked nothing off my long list all day I am still valuable as I am your daughter and I have taken the time to do the small things that the day has demanded, things like –

  • Toasting a bagel as my boy had got up late and needed to run out the door
  • Making small trees for the girls Cub Scouting camp shoebox dioramas
  • Organising all the cards and gifts for the next month ahead
  • Printing off photos for a friend
  • Speaking words of affirmation to my kids
  • Kissing and hugging my hubby
  • Steam cleaning the floor in the little toilet for the 800th time as the nasty smell just won’t lift
  • Changing the kids bedding to light summer duvets
  • Walking round the lake and stopped to marvel at how awesome the sight is
  • Checking our bank account and made sure bills are being paid on time
  • Speaking sweet words to a little lady who couldn’t get to sleep because of the heat
  • Cooking lasagne and banana bread as that is what small people fancied
  • Contacting a local family to see if they want to meet us at Church on Sunday

Yes I have been present in the day and have enjoyed it and that is far more important than ticking things off a list and allowing life to whizz past me.

Thank you Lord that you have made this path for me, I feel as if I am in the right place, doing the right thing. Mich x

Easy Summer Days #R2BC

Happy Thursday, I hope you are well and enjoying the summer weeks. I'm so glad the kids have broken up from school and we have enjoyed a fairly low key week so far. It all ramps up from the weekend so this time of relaxation is very necessary.

At the weekend we took a couple of visits to Battle Abbey as it is only a short drive from our home and now we have English Heritage membership, there is no cost to us. The weather was so nice and it was bliss to lay on the grass chatting to my hubby whilst the kids went off and played together. There was even a wedding in the grounds on Sunday and this meant we could enjoy the live music.

Monday I let the little ladies have a good shop. It was their birthday last weekend and they received money from a number of people so they loved finding themselves a bargain at Claire's, New Look, H&M and BHS. I even sat on the bench outside two shops and let them go in and do their shopping alone (as long as they stayed together).

Saturday 23 July 2016

Review: Cool Cardz Scratcheez

It was my girl's birthday last weekend and they were super pleased to receive the "Boho Chic" themed Cool Cardz Scratcheez to review as it meant they could make little thank-you cards for the girls that came along and celebrated with them. You can make all sorts though, whatever takes your fancy - party invites, VIP passes, secret club cards etc.

The Cool Cardz range is something most young girls (aged roughly 6 - 12 years) will enjoy as it combines creativity with cool and there are loads of different sets to choose from. You make little credit card sized laminated cards for any occasion. This boxed set comes with a Boho Chic handbag design studio, 20 cards and laminate pockets as well as some gems, two sheets of stickers, a pen, a couple of ring stampers and the new scratcheez stickers.

Thursday 21 July 2016

Happy 9th Birthday Little Ladies #R2BC

This last week has all been about my little ladies birthday. They have turned 9 and the celebration feels as if it has gone on forever. I think they have had a good time but we are all ready for the end of school now as the tiredness has arrived along with the heat.

Having a birthday on a school day is never the best thing, so we arranged for their birthday treat with friends to be on the Saturday and let them open their presents spread over the weekend and on Monday too. They went to a new craft shop with a friend each on the Saturday and made either mosaics or decopatch, I also had a go at the decopatch and really enjoyed myself, I'll definitely do it again.

Sadly Miss E's friend was feeling quite poorly so we didn't head on to McDonalds and the park as we had planned but instead went home for an impromptu birthday lunch and play with their local friends. I then treated them to a trip to our Orangery tea room for an ice cream and milkshake, they felt very grown-up girls just the five of them together and had lots of fun searching in the fountain for lost coins.

Tuesday 19 July 2016

Giving Myself Permission...

I've lost my blogging way at the moment. If I'm honest it's been gone for some time and I've been trying to persevere and keep on going but I'm really not sure what I'm up to. My mojo for it has gone, perhaps it is just on holiday or maybe it is a boat that has sailed its final voyage. I don't know right now but I do know I'm out of love with blogging and it just feels like a chore. Not good, right?

The off feelings started late last year with a scary trolling episode that really sent me off kilter and my love for blogging has not returned since. It's evident as I've not accepted any paid work yet this financial year (and I now realise we are a quarter of the way into the year) and I even missed BritMums Live in June, which is my go-to blogging event each year.

I've also realised this guilt I feel when I'm not writing is not helping anyone. It's is just a millstone round my neck dragging me down. I don't feel completely ready to give it all up yet, it has been way too big a part of my life for the last eight years and I think God's hand is in this and He will use my writing somehow but for now it is time for a bit of a break.

Sunday 17 July 2016

Review: Mountain Warehouse Backpacker Lightweight 2 Man Tent

My JJ loves to camp, he has been so many times that I've lost count and I'm really quite proud that he is a competent camper. When we go to events that involve fire-starting or outdoors work like wood whittling or kayaking JJ is on it and always asked to help set things up or to supervise.

Previously on his camps he has shared a tent with his Dad or with other scouting friends so we haven't needed to get him a tent but this time around he was asked to take his own tent rather than use a Scout group one and Dh's is a bit big for him to take when he needs to carry all his own kit, so we asked Mountain Warehouse if they could help us out with a small but effective tent that JJ could take to this Scout camp.

I have to say, they really came up trumps. JJ was sent the Backpacker Lightweight 2 man tent which is currently an absolute bargain at £49.99, this being half price from its regular price of £99.99. When JJ first showed me this tent online and said he was interested I thought it looked a good model as it is super small when packed and only weighs 1.8kg.

Friday 15 July 2016

10 Top Gift Ideas for Loved Ones Abroad

I don't know about you but I always draw a blank when thinking about what to buy the members of my family who live abroad. I have to admit that I've been guilty in the past of sending some money via PayPal and asking my Cousin to get a present that their child would like and whilst this does leave the child happy it feels to me like I passed the buck!

With more family birthdays coming up I wanted to be better organised this year so I asked some of my friends who live abroad what ideas they have and here is the top 10 that we came up with -

1.  Cupcakes - Who doesn't love a cake on their birthday? Lucy at Lish Concepts suggested using the internet to check out a local cupcake delivery company and spoiling your loved one with a dozen!

2.  Cadburys Chocolate Hamper - On the subject of food, what better reminder of home than a Cadburys hamper filled with all their favourite childhood treats? This is definitely a gift that would appeal to me, I can't imagine not having access to Cadburys Buttons, Double Deckers or Curly Wurlys and I assume nor could Sarah who recommended this gift.

Thursday 14 July 2016

Date Night, Walking the Cliffs and Beautiful Sunsets

Happy Thursday friends, how are you today?

I'm doing well but getting desperate for the end of term, there is so much going on and the kids are getting more and more tired. I really struggle to understand why primary school children still have homework at this time of year, mine just can't focus... but not long now!

It has been a fabulous last week in general and here is just a few of the highlights -

1.   A great date night with my hubby. We went to see the film Absolutely Fabulous and it gave us a good few belly laughs and we also enjoyed a fabulous authentic Italian meal. I'd highly recommend Rustico Italiano in Hastings, East Sussex if you are ever local. Such reasonable prices and the food was exceptional.

2.   Cliff walking with our Pastoral Group at Seven Sisters and the Birling Gap. This area of outstanding beauty managed by the National Trust is truly beautiful and really worth a day trip. We have been here dozens of times but I never tire of it. You can walk for miles or just lie there and take in the glory of God's creation. I'll be blogging separately about this soon.

Thanks to Erica for this great picture

Tuesday 12 July 2016

What Do I Really Really Want?

Were you a Spice Girls fan back in the 1990's? Sshh, I was, I suspect I was a bit old for them really as Wannabe was launched in 1996 and I was 23 years old then but I still loved them. So much fun and such a lot of energy along with their catchy tunes. Baby Spice was my favourite in general but it was Mel C all the way when it came to the voice.

It is 20 years since the original 'Girl Power' tune and I have to say that I love, with a capital L the new video that Wannabe has been loaned to 20 years after its original release.

So powerful to watch all those girls fighting back and shouting out that the world youngsters are growing up in today isn't fair. There has been progress but in so many countries there are still many, many girls and women who are not allowed to own land, gain an education, spend their own money or have a say in important decisions, such as whether they feel ready to marry as young as 14.

I've posted about the Global Goals (also known as the Sustainable Development Goals) a number of times before. These are the follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals and the aim is that by 2030 three extraordinary things will have been achieved -

  • End extreme poverty. 
  • Fight inequality and injustice. 
  • Combat climate change.

This years focus as part of the fight for these important things is focussed on the rights of girls and women everywhere. In September the General Assembly of the United Nations will meet and we (yes us, Joe average) are being asked to help make some noise so that our objection to girls and women being treated worse off than their male counterparts will be heard by our world leaders and then they can take action.

So please, please why don't you join me and tell our leaders what you  really, really want for girls and women everywhere. I've chosen that no girl should ever have to be forced into a marriage that she doesn't want.  Having seen in Ethiopia some of the thousands of young women who have ended up needing surgery for a fistula that was caused because their tiny body was not yet developed enough to carry a baby down the birth canal this really tugs at my heart strings.

So join me, take a selfie, showing what you want to see change and then share it socially with the hashtag #whatireallyreallywant and these will all be collected up and presented at the UN to show the strength of opinion that is out there worldwide.

I know it is easy to turn off and believe there will never be change when it comes to some of these massive world problems, like poverty, child marriage and global warming but there has already been massive leaps forward and the more of us that engage and press for change the more it will happen.

We all want change but for change to happen we all have to get on board and make it happen.

Simple steps taken by many people equal collective voice that can't be ignored.

Come on, Join in!

1. Share your selfie across your social media channels or blog

2. Share the updated Wannabe video on your social pages

4. Follow the ONE Girls and Women Facebook page for updates of great articles and resources

Thanks for being involved, Mich xx

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Thursday 7 July 2016

Reasons to be Cheerful - Desks, Clearing Out and New Opportunities

Good morning friends, I hope you are well today. Welcome to this week’s edition of Reasons to be Cheerful, which is being hosted here for the month of July. A massive thanks to Becky for hosting in June and she’ll be back again for August.

If you are new to this, Reasons to be Cheerful is a super friendly linky party that has been running for around five years now. 
  • We are a small but positive and welcoming community and we’d love to read and comment on any linked up posts. 
  • All you have to do is link something up that is making you feel happy/ cheerful/ positive/ joyful/ thankful. 
  • We are not big into rules but it would be cool if you either add my badge or link back to me so people can find the linky
  • Then comment, comment, comment as we find the love comes back when you give it out. Please don't link dump and run....
For me this week, I have loads I could share but I'll keep it nice and simple with three things -

Sunday 3 July 2016

HP Envy 5540 Printer - Easy as 1,2,3

For those of you short on time, here are the top 10 reasons why I love the HP Envy 5540 printer:

1.      There are all the functions I need in one printer - WI-FI printing from computers, phones and tablets, scanning, copying and even sending a fax
2.      It looks stylish on my desk, albeit a little big
3.      It was super easy to set up, taking under 10 minutes in total
4.      Fantastic initial price, you get a lot for just £69.99 and actually I see it is just £59.99 at PC World right now
5.      You get three months free trial of Instant Ink to start you off, so the purchase price is all you need to pay up front
6.      It is Instant Ink comparable, meaning I pay just £3.49 per month to print up to 100 full colour A4 pages each month
7.      As it is connected to the Internet, it communicates with the Instant Ink service to order my ink replacement cartridges in plenty of time before I need them
8.      You can load small photo paper (6x4) into a separate drawer making it really easy to print decent quality photos
9.      The touch screen on the printer is very responsive and intuitive to use
10.    Most importantly the print quality is superb, especially in colour

And in case you are not sure, yes I would highly recommend it!

Friday 1 July 2016

Family Fun at Dover Castle, Kent

Great fun at Dover Castle, Kent for all the family. English Heritage maintain this excellent WWII site

During the May half-term we headed over to Kent for a few days stay. Our intention was to enjoy the coast, visit a few castles and have a refreshing family week together. Sadly things didn't go quite to plan as the weather was terrible (just look at the mist in that photo above) and our car broke down too, meaning a big bill and us being stuck in our hotel room.

Never a family to let the weather get to us we headed over to Dover for a look around the castle. My husband had been here briefly back in 2015 but decided not to explore in depth that time as he knew the rest of us would love it, so this time we were all first timers and I can honestly say it won't be our last time of visiting. We took out English Heritage membership especially for this visit and with a bit of googling, we got a good deal of 20% of the membership price, so we now need to make good use of our years entry to all the English Heritage sites locally.

Arrival and Parking
Dover Castle is super easy to find, there was loads of signage and we used the maps function on my phone to guide us there. The attendants we met were very friendly and we quickly had a parking spot, very close to the welcome area. I suspect it wasn't the busiest of days though due to the high winds, drizzle and mist but it really didn't matter too much in the end as we had a great time.

We were given a map and offered a brochure to buy at the ticket office and then headed straight out to explore. There is no one route to follow, you can suit yourself.