Tuesday 31 October 2017

Christmas Gift Guide - 9 Ideas for the Hard to Buy for Man!

 {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}

If you have a man in your life who is hard to buy for I've put this gift guide together with you in mind. Both my husband and dad are hard to buy for, the main reason being that neither is really interested in presents. They are both quite content in life with what they have and of course, that's wonderful but it's a bit tricky for me, as I'm someone who likes to give gifts. So I hope you find these nine ideas useful -

A Trip to Hogwarts in the Snow

If you've never been to the Making of Harry Potter, Warner Bros Studio Tour in Watford, Herts then I'd definitely recommend it. We've had a couple of wonderful visits in the last few years and you're normally there for around four hours, although you're free to stay longer if you wish. Over the Christmas period (from 18th November 2017 - 28th January 2018) the whole experience is dressed up for the winter season and it really is a beautiful sight to see. If the man you're buying for has enjoyed the Harry Potter films then he is sure to love this gift. Or look on Amazon for Harry Potter gifts (*ad). 

For more photos check out my review from last year and you can book over here.

Armani Slippers

I think everyone enjoys a bit of comfort and what better than some cosy slippers for a cold day. Slippers of course are a bit of a cliche though and are something you might buy for your Granddad but instead of shopping at Clarks or M&S why not have a look at a more exclusive online shop like Mainline Menswear and shop for some really special slippers, like these gorgeous ones from Armani that I'll be giving to my husband. They are super soft to the touch, come in a drawstring bag and retail for £55 with free delivery. Armani slippers (*ad) are sure to be a hit!

Saturday 28 October 2017

6 Things Every Woman in Her 40's Should Do

40 year old woman image from Shutterstock
{This is a collaborative post}

We’ve all heard that 40 is the new 30 and I think it is true that as a nation we are staying younger for longer. People are working for more years, having babies later in life and today's woman is expected to have it all but truly, we can only function well if we are looking after ourselves.

As a woman who really enjoyed her twenties and thirties but didn’t make enough time to look after herself, now is the last-ditch attempt to ensure that I go into middle-aged feeling well. I want to share with you five things that every 40-year-old woman should be doing (me included!).

1.   Get enough sleep
This one seems so simple and of course, we all know that we function and look our best when we have had enough sleep but did you know that getting enough sleep will also boost your memory, reduce inflammation and avoid accidents?

Amazing isn’t it? Sleep can make such a difference, it can even increase our performance, as shown by a 2011 study from the Stanford University School of Medicine. The study discovered that elite athletes were able to improve their best times when they had more sleep each night over a lengthened period.

Not only is it important to get enough sleep though, more recent studies show that you should adopt a regular pattern of sleep. Your bed and wake times need to be pretty consistent to ensure that your circadian rhythm operates at its peak. The circadian clock ensures that hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are released about an hour before you need to wake up and your body will have moved into the less deep REM sleep so that when you make you feel good and ready to go.

Thursday 26 October 2017

Searching for our Perfect Eurocamp Holiday for 2018

Oh the weather really is dreary now, isn't it? The rain has arrived, the sky is dull, the trees are shedding their leaves and all I want to do is fly away to sunnier climes. It's not to be at the moment though, so the next best thing I can do is start to look for our perfect family holiday for 2018.

In May this year our family stayed as guests of Eurocamp at the Playa Montroig Camping Resort on the Costa Dorada, Spain and we had such a wonderful time. It was just what we needed - superb accommodation with a great decked area for quality family time, amazing swimming pools and fun entertainment that engaged us all. It's no wonder that I'm thinking we will stay with Eurocamp again in 2018.

I asked some fellow bloggers where they have stayed with Eurocamp and which sites they would recommend, here's what they said -

1km of water slides at Duinrell!

Duinrell Campsite in Wassenaar, Holland
I know quite a few friends who have holidayed here and they all agree it has the most amazing entertainment, theme park and water complex. Sounds pretty amazing, right? Alana from Baby Holiday travelled there with her young family in September this year and she says it is perfect for toddlers, in fact what she said about Duinrell was that 'it's not relaxing but fab for the kids' and every parent knows that if the kids are happy then chances are they are too!

Joy at the Sensory Seeker said their families favourite Eurocamp site (they're stayed in a few) is Duinrell as well 'as there is just so much to do both day and night for the whole family. In fact we have been several times and never managed to explore the local area as the kids love the camp so much' and her kids are much older, so that gives a great perspective from the other end of the parenting spectrum.

Wednesday 25 October 2017

6 Top Knitwear Picks to Suit Every Occasion

It’s not often I get to head out to the shops on my own or with my girlfriends nowadays and I did used to love shopping. So whilst my husband had the kids this afternoon I headed out for a coffee and a browse of the internet to see what the latest knitwear trends are for 2017. 

At 44 I’m not interested in wearing the height of fashion any longer but I do like to look good and for the last few years I seem to have resorted to wearing super comfy, but very shapeless cardigans and I think that has to stop!

So, I’ve been having a good search of the web and have found some amazing pieces of David Nieper knitwear that I want to share with you -

Out and About Shopping – Go-Anywhere Poncho

Why bother with a coat this season when you could wear something much more fun like this go-anywhere poncho? I think this is great, I love the pattern and the contrast trim and the neck is wide and soft to make it easy to pull on and off as many times as you need to. It is made from angora wool so is wonderfully soft too. Can’t you just imagine enjoying a hot chocolate at a Christmas market wearing this? £99.

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Its so Important to Thank our Brilliant Teachers

Best teacher mage courtesy of Shutterstock

In 2013 our family moved from Hertfordshire to East Sussex and whilst this has been the right move for our family for so many reasons, it is the children's schooling where I have been most pleased. Our three children attended a big town school in Herts where there were 500 students and very high attainment levels. Of course that's not a bad thing in general but it led of our children being just another pupil and not being seen for the unique individuals they are.

When we moved to East Sussex we looked at a couple of schools local to our new rural home but one easily stood out for us. The children's new school is a small Church of England School in a local village, it has around 140 pupils and only five classes for the whole school from reception through to year 6. I worried at first that these mixed year classes might hold my kids back but it has actually proved to be completely the opposite.

In 2013 JJ was 10 years old and heading into year 5 at the new school and the twins were 6 years old and going into year 2 and it was amazing, especially for JJ, to be judged on his merits of who he was at that time. JJ had attended his last school since he was 4 years old and they had watched him develop from an oversized pre-schooler with spacial awareness issues, to a troubled young boy who struggled to make friends and deal with change, through to the gifted ten year old he was when he started his new school. But his old school seemed to have stopped in their assessment of him and he was painted as a kid with issues and one who was a challenge to have in class.

Within a week of being in the new school he had received a Head Teachers Award for how well he had settled in and they truly seemed to be able to see him for who he really was and not who he might have been a few years back. It was amazing and lifted my spirits so much. I don't know if it is because of an exceptional Head Teacher that you get marvellous teachers in general or if a small village schools attracts them but whatever it is, I need to give a big thank you to Mr Payne, Mrs Lloyd, Mrs Cleaves and Mrs Gill in particular.

Sunday 22 October 2017

8 Fabulous Slime Tutorials with Top Slime Tips (UK Ingredients)

Over the last six months my 10 year old twin daughters and I have been having loads of fun making slime together. We use an easy recipe with ingredients all easily available in the UK and Ireland and the slime can be made in under 5 minutes and lasts for weeks as long as you keep it in an very air-tight container and take it out to play with regularly rather than just leaving it to sit unattended.

Check out my YouTube channel - Michelle Twin Mum if you want to see all our slime tutorials.

Big Fluffy Sparkle Slime - First up is our most recent video and it is the first appearance of Miss M on video. She does make me laugh in this and Miss E was filming and guiding her through what to do. They did a great job and Miss M is still enjoying playing with this big slime a couple of weeks later. You can see in the photo below that the glitter starts to bleed into the white slime as it gets more and more gold looking the older it gets.

Ingredients - This slime is made with PVA glue, shaving foam, bicarbonate of soda, glitter and contact lens solution (containing boric acid - this is important to make it work!) and food colouring or paint if you want it to be a different colour.

Slime Tip - You can add baby oil to help a sticky slime become less sticky or any kind of baby or body lotion to help your slime be more stretchy.

Slime Tip - Use the ultra fine glitter instead of the regular grainy type as this makes the difference in feel when you play with the slime.

Friday 20 October 2017

Light at the End of the Tunnel – We can Get Help! #aminumber5?

This was my view on our Spanish holiday earlier this year and whilst it was beautiful. It would have been
so much more fun to be in the water with my family.

{This is a collaborative post}

I remember being 12 when I headed to the toilet in the Happy Eater restaurant and saw that first flush of pink on the toilet paper. We were there as a family for Sunday lunch and the day wasn’t supposed to be any different to any other, but of course it was. In my mum’s words, ‘I had become a woman’ and on one hand I was very pleased to be growing up but on another I realized it was the start of something.

Not that my periods presented any problem for me for the first twenty years of having them. I was very regular, they were never too heavy and I just had a five day bleed. No, I certainly didn’t realize how lucky I was back then. The problems for me only started when I had my first child in 2003, after having JJ my periods returned far quicker than I thought they would considering I was breastfeeding and they didn’t just come back quicker, they came back much heavier.

Of course you can take care of the flow with the appropriate sanitary protection but what I found so hard to deal with was the pain. I can recall a day when I had to ring into work from my car as I had tried to drive there and I was doubled up in pain. I got myself to the doctors and asked to see someone and luckily they fitted me in. Mefanamic acid became my best friend and really did dampen the pain but each month there were still two or three days with very heavy bleeding (losing clots too) and almost unbearable pain.

I just learnt to live with it until I fell pregnant again about three years later. I’m really not sure why I didn’t seek more help, I just seemed to put up with the heavy bleeding and the pain, not knowing that I had menorrhagia, or heavy periods, a recognised medical condition. 

Thursday 19 October 2017

Reasons to be Cheerful - Crazy Golf, Pub Grub and Pretty Nails #R2BC

Happy Thursday friends, it's been a couple of weeks since I've joined in with Reasons to be Cheerful, so it is high time to rectify that and I always find the longer I leave it between gratitude posts the harder they are to write. Being thankful is a discipline that really is best practised daily.

I had a look back over last weeks diary and quickly saw there is loads to be thankful for -

We took some our volunteers out for a day in Brighton and we started the day with a game of crazy golf. It was great fun.

My husband had a few odd days off work recently using up his holiday before the year end, so we've been going out for lunch or a coffee and been able to spend time together.

Monday 16 October 2017

Review: Skin Renewal Treatment from Swiss Clinic

As a 44 year old woman I'm fully aware that your skin starts to change as you age and after decades of not really doing anything to my skin, except a quick wash I thought it was high time to start taking a bit more care. Read on to find out how I got on with microneedling - the art of rolling tiny needles across my face. Yes really!

There's nothing like moving from no beauty regime to going to something quite new and some would say radical. When the Swiss Clinic got in touch with me back in August and suggested I might of heard of them due to the success of Skin Renewal - one of their signature microneedling treatments I had to chuckle to myself. This is a woman who doesn't read magazines, has no idea what is in fashion and is more focused on the inside than out.

Friday 13 October 2017

Scottish Friendly's No Spend Weekend Challenge

Money just seems to disappear when you have kids, right? That is one reason I said yes to getting involved with Scottish Friendly's no spend weekend challenge and I think I did well. Come and read all the ways we had fun as a family without spending money.

My lovely friend Cass at Frugal Family often talks about no spend days and to be honest I had never heard of the concept before. So simple but yet completely alien to me and I kept meaning to give it a go but it never happened. So this weekend challenge was a good chance to put it into action and see if a spender like me could go cold turkey! I wasn't expecting miracles if I'm honest.

Friday After School - Pressing Fresh Juice!
Once a month all the families who live together in our community come together for an event to engage the children and we eat together.

This month we were focusing on harvest and how good God is in all He provides in our life. We all went down to the walled garden in the grounds of our home and gathered some fruit and veg and then set about cleaning, preparing and pressing the fruit to make fresh juice to have with our dinner. We ended up with apple, apple and rhubarb and apple and beetroot juice.

We had a great staff dinner of pasta or jacket potato with bolognaise, cheese and salad and of course the fresh juice and we finished off with melon chunks from melons grown in our green houses.  JJ and my husband headed off to church for his youth club and the girls and I had a game of monopoly before bed.

Thursday 12 October 2017

Taking my Sight for Granted on World Sight Day #WSD2017

Today is World Sight Day and I have an admission to make - I rarely think about the privilege that it is to be able to see the world in glorious colour. I take my eye sight completely for granted, I am so lucky to have been born in a country where healthcare and eye-care is free for every child. Of course the same can't be said for many living in the poorest parts of Africa. I recall when I was visiting Ethiopia just how many people I met who had numerous eye problems such as cataracts and these problems adversely affect their life in a massive way.

This years theme for World Sight Day is #MakeVisionCount and they are raising awareness that around 285 million people worldwide are visually impaired and that around 80% of those people are suffering from blindness or visual impairment due to a preventable cause (1).

I have no real idea of the impact blindness would cause on my every day life, so yesterday afternoon I did something simple and put on a blindfold and tried to navigate my house. It was after school so the kids were there if I needed them and I told them to just treat me as normal. I managed a trip to the loo on my own and I could do that OK although I have to admit I found it very scary living in the darkness, even only for a short time.

Just as I was about to come out I heard one of my girls calling my name and it was pretty shocking that I couldn't actually tell which of my twins it was. When I identified it was Miss E she said come and help me with my maths homework mum and normally I help her read the questions as she is dyslexic and it can take her a while but of course I couldn't do that. I had to ask my son to help her. Then my other daughter asked for a snack and could she have a cream cheese and ham wrap? I decided to attempt this without my sight as I wouldn't be using a sharp knife or such and it was fine but it took me twice as long, was pretty messy and she ended up with chicken slices rather than ham.

Tuesday 10 October 2017

Keeping your Kids Mobile Safe at School

Children with mobile phones image from Shutterstock
It was only a couple of years ago I found myself saying to my husband, but surely JJ doesn't need a mobile now he is at Secondary school? We never had one, so why should he? But then my husband patiently reminded me that thirty years ago when we were at school there was a coin operated phone box on practically every street corner and we both lived within walking distance of our schools. Now our son travels for nearly an hour on the bus and in all that time doesn't pass even one phone box!

Oh yes things really have changed and I am convinced that for the most part the changes really are a good thing but of course there are challenges too and we'll explore some of those now.

It's against School Policy
This is a tough one as generally I always want to encourage our children to adhere to the school rules but actually I think school are being a bit short-sighted on this one. Without a mobile, how is my son to tell me if he misses the bus or if it breaks down, when there are no longer any call boxes and no public transport to where we live?

Practicality dictates for us that JJ (age 14) takes his phone to school with him and during the school day it stays on mute at the bottom of his bag. From what he tells me it is exactly what nearly every other child in the school does too, so it seems comical that the school keep reinforcing in their newsletter that phones must not be bought into school and if a child does they are breaking the school rules and any loss or damage will not be dealt with by the school. I suppose that is one way of them ensuring they don't have lots of parents banging on their door moaning about theft or breakage.

Monday 9 October 2017

6 Energy Efficient Habits to Teach Your Kids

Energy Saving Graphic from Shutterstock

It's important to practice energy efficiency, especially in the summer when air conditioning can cause high utility bills. Involving the children teaches good habits and helps keep the bills down. Here are some useful ways to engage your children as household energy monitors. 

Turn it Off
Keeping lights on when it's daylight or the room is empty wastes a lot of energy. Turn your children into the light switch police, letting them make sure light switches are in the off position. Also, gaming consoles, televisions, and computers drain electricity even when turned off but especially when on stand-by, so teach your children to unplug their devices when not in use. That goes for other devices like phone chargers and docking stations, too. 

Close the Curtains
Natural light is great, but it also raises the temperature during hot weather. When the temperature climbs outdoors, make sure your kids keep the curtains closed, so their room doesn't get hotter. During cooler times, opening curtains helps reduce the dependency on artificial light. So, teach your children to use the curtains effectively during various times of the year.

Take Shorter Showers
Filling the bathtub uses more energy than showers. But showers, especially during hot months, allow heat and humidity to spread throughout the house so the best solution is to limit shower lengths. Teach the kids that letting the water pour over them for too long wastes both water and the energy it takes to heat it. Put a timer in the bathroom, so the family knows the proper length for each shower.

Cut the Kitchen Heat
During the summer months, try to cook without the oven. Everyone knows how the entire kitchen heats up when the oven is on. Make it a fun game for older kids to come up with one-pot recipes, even ones they can cook themselves. Have food left over? Let the kids think of fun ways to use up leftovers, like adding pasta to vegetable dishes to create a new meal and then tell your children how much energy you've saved by being smart in the kitchen.

Go Off-Grid for the Day
Remember when you were young and the backyard was your entertainment for the day? Encourage your children to put down the controller and play outside. It's not only good exercise, but also it uses no electricity. In the evenings, turn off the television and computer, and bring out the board games. Show your children how much fun the family can have playing traditional games together.

Doing Chores
Turn to the past when doing the laundry too. Show your children the old-fashioned way to dry clothes, with an outdoor clothesline. And, when you do run appliances, like washers, dryers, and dishwashers, make sure the loads are full. Children need to understand that running half-full loads wastes a lot of energy.

Helping to keep energy bills lower and conserving our natural resources are important jobs for kids and adults. Engage your children with ways to help like turning off lights, taking shorter showers, and playing outside. Forming these good habits in childhood means more conscientious adults later and that is a win for everyone! 


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Sunday 8 October 2017

Listening to God and Knowing My Calling will Come

You know sometimes there is something brewing inside you and you're not even really sure what it is? Well God's been speaking to me and I've been trying really hard to listen and to understand what He has been saying. In fact I've been trying to write this blog post for days but it just hasn't flowed and I think that is because I've been absorbing and allowing His message and words to fall deep within me.

I've always known that God is more interested in my character than my comfort. He never created me to live a blessed life and to have things my way. I'm not here to get what I want out of life, I am here to serve His purpose and to be a disciple of Jesus, showing others the way to a better life by knowing Him. Of course this isn't always easy though as by my very flawed nature as a human I am selfish and think of me first. I want what I want.

Recently I've been seeking a job, something to give me satisfaction and where I can feel useful but the only interview that I went to didn't work out and I have to say I was surprised but a few weeks down the line and I'm not at all, I now see it is for the best. I was trying to fill a round hole with a square peg. I don't just need any old job, I need whatever it is that God has planned for me and it may well not fall into my timing but when His timing comes it will be so good, of that I'm sure.

I'm learning to Ignore the inner voices, the ones in my head that say I should be working, I should be busy, I shouldn't be enjoying my life as much as I am and I'm tuning in to God's voice. The one that says spend time with me Michelle, slow down, enjoy life, smell the roses and take care of yourself. I keep hearing the word abide, and abide means to accept or to act in accordance with, so when I look at the verse below I remember I have to be fully immersed in my relationship with God to be able to produce fruit.

"Abide in me, and I will abide in you. Just as the branch cannot produce fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me." John 15:4

Friday 6 October 2017

How to Create a Family Photography Competition (Kid Friendly)

The next school holiday is fast approaching and if you’re anything Iike me you'll be searching for ways to keep the kids entertained without it costing you a fortune. Well here is a cost-free and simple idea to add to your repertoire and it is sure to be fun.

A couple of weeks ago we headed to Bexhill-on-sea as a family and the kids spent the afternoon taking photos of their choice around a prompt (or theme) I had chosen for them. I told them in advance that one child would be the winner and would receive a prize, but didn't reveal what the prize was. This was because I didn't want them to put in effort according to how good they each felt the prize was. I just said it would be something they liked and different for each of them.

If you fancy creating your own photo walk or competition here are the things to think through -

1.  Choose your date and check the weather. Some children won't mind if it is pouring down outside but of course, others will hate that and it does make taking good photos much harder, so try to pick a fine day. It doesn't matter if it is cold or frosty, you can just wrap up and of course, you can get some fab photos in the frost or snow.

Tuesday 3 October 2017

10 Ways to Improve your Relationship with your Teen

It's hard to believe that the hulking big lad of 14 who won't come out of your son's bedroom without a suitable enticement is the same little boy who used to hold onto your legs and cry when you left him, right? Well, fear not, as your little soldier is still hiding in there and you just need to employ a few tactics to help him (or her, this isn't limited to boys only) be able to show that he still loves you.

1.  Stop underestimating your teen
Your child is more capable, more resilient and more full of ideas than you have ever considered. I think that most parents are guilty of underestimating their child. We see a problem and we want to solve it for them. We have a problem of our own and we try to hide it from them. They show a few emotions and we tiptoe around them. of course, we do these things with the very best of intentions but we actually end up robbing them of important opportunities to learn the skill of problem-solving, to be able to feel useful and to be fully seen, acknowledged and accepted.