Monday 31 October 2016

10 Fabulous Tween Girl Christmas Gifts for under £25

{Many of the items in this post have been gifted to me in exchange for inclusion in my gift guide. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, any affiliate links will be marked with #ad}

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 (*ad) 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

Wake up Sleepyhead

I had an amazing morning at church today, so much fun. God really is good.

Before we even got to the sermon there was a clear word for me as Sarah, a lady I recognise but don’t really know came up the front to share a prophetic word. She talked of how God had told her a few weeks ago to take her frying pan and a wooden spoon into church and to go round banging it, telling people to wake-up. She didn’t feel this was an act of judgement though but an act of love, that Jesus couldn’t bear that so many of us where missing out.

It was so special hearing Sarah speak as she was crying and quite embarrassed by what God was asking her to do but she knew that it was from Him and therefore she must be obedient, however uncomfortable it was for her. She said she had been ‘a bag lady’ for the last few weeks as she had bought her frying pans and spoons with her but had not taken action and then God told her today was the day, so there she was sharing with us. She invited anyone who felt called to do so to borrow some spare pans she had and within moments about six people had gone to join her.

What followed was a very powerful time of worship as we sang ‘I’ll stand with arms high and hearts abandoned’ by Hillsong as the frying pans were clanged, people were clapping and whopping and of course we were singing at the tops of our voices with hands and hearts raised in awe.

But it didn’t end there. Then another guy came up the front, I don’t know his name but he delivered a message repeated from one he had given at the 7.30am prayer meeting and it tied in perfectly. He spoke about how God wants to wake each one of us and fill us with the Holy Spirit, about how all the ‘stuff’ I’ve allowed myself to be consumed with has pushed the Spirit out and taken the place He should have.

He spoke for quite some time with all of it resonating with me and giving me more and more clarity, but the only bit I could instantly link to a bible passage, was the following from Ephesians 5:14  (NIV) –

This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

I really felt God tell me I’ve been like someone in a diabetic coma. I have been dangerously close to death and He wants me back. No longer must food be my everything, I have to wake up to the reality that I WANT and NEED the Holy Spirit far more than I want excess food. I need to repent of my active rebellion. Why have I been choosing to act out like a naughty teenager?

He wants to wake me, fill me and send me to make a difference and that is what I yearn for to. To be useful. To make a difference. So repentance is the only way and not the kind of repentance that a child thinks of. It is not enough for me to say sorry for overeating, for getting heavier by the day, for putting my health at risk, for hiding away, for worrying my children. I have to repent in the true meaning of the word. I must make a 180 degrees turn and walk away from the source of my sin.

It is super simple what I have to do. But for me, it is not easy. So I have to WAKE-UP and rely on Him.

The serenity prayer has helped me in tough times before, so I need to get it printed off and pasted up in visible places to help keep reminding me to be strong in the Lord. I have to remember what it says in 2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Simply put when I weak, He is strong.

We had loads more fabulous worship after this word and a song I don’t know too well, spoke so much to me – ‘Spirit of the Living God, Come fall afresh on me. Come wake me from my sleep’. So very apt, listen to it here, it is just beautiful.

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 for 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.

Thursday 6 October 2016

Good News - I've Been Keeping a Secret!

Hey all,

I think some of you know already but many of you probably don't.

I've been keeping a bit of a secret since the beginning of this year.

You might of seen me mention at the time that some nasty comments on my practically retired review blog shook me right up and I even considered throwing the towel in and blogging no longer but I couldn't do it. For many reasons, first I felt God prod me to keep on, second it is my outlet, it's how I'm creative and clear my head and third I wasn't giving in to one horrid person who thought indecent comments were appropriate.

So what I had to do was create myself a new space, a space where I felt safer and that meant a new blog. Back in January the fabulous Stacey Corrin designed me a new blog using a blog title that had been going round my head for years and I have endeavoured to create a place that is true to me and it is probably what I'd call my faith blog.

I give you my new blog - Progress not Perfection

Tuesday 4 October 2016

Kit a Kid Out for £50 Challenge - Get The Label

When I was first approached by Get the Label to see if I might like to kit my kid out in a full outfit (footwear, tops/bottom or dress and a jacket/jumper) for £50 I though they were having a laugh. Where can you buy all those items for £50 when your child is age 9 and wears age 12/13 clothes? Yes it would of course work if I was heading to a charity shop but this is all brand new gear and not just that it is designer clothes that Get The Label sell, hence the name!

Miss M was off school poorly on the day the email arrived and as she had been sick she could not go into school but realistically she wasn't too bad, so I gave her the challenge to take her mind off the aching tummy.

Now Miss M considers herself to be a bit of a fashionista, she knows what the newest trends are and she is happy to spend her own money on clothes that she loves but left to her own devices she would normally choose things that are far too old and revealing for her. I was therefore super pleased when about an hour later she showed me her choices and she had decided to kit herself out in a running outfit.