Thursday, 15 November 2018

Reasons to be Cheerful | Looking for the Silver Lining | #R2BC

Hey friends, how are you doing? I hope you’re feeling more cheery than me. It’s one of those weeks when I really need the R2BC linky as I’m feeling a tad sorry for myself. I started to feel unwell, just a cold, nothing major, last week and then it got worse and worse and I ended up feeling properly poorly at the start of this week. I’m on the upward hill but now I’ve got a 24 hour blood pressure monitor on and it hurts, ever half hour it squeezes the life out of my arm, it’s no fun, especially not when I’m still full of a chesty cough.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

15 Great Gifts to buy a Teen Boy for Christmas - Gift Guide

Christmas is fast approaching and I do love to get ready nice and early so that I can spend most of December spending time with my family and enjoying Advent. I have to admit that I far prefer buying for women than men, probably because I'm a woman but it just seems so much easier.  I'm determined that my teenage son won't miss out on the fun though and I thought I'd share with you some suggestions of items to buy for a teenage boy this year.

If you ask my son what he'd like for Christmas or a birthday his stock answer is money, that's because he is always saving up for the next laptop, gaming headset, phone or other such gadget. I'm sure we will give him some money but he needs some gifts to open too and I've found in the past when I give him items that he doesn't even know he wants, he ends up having fun and it keeps him off his tech for an hour or two and that's a win in my book!

Gifts for under £5.00

Haribo Festive Treats - from £1
Who doesn't love Haribo sweets? I don't think there is any age cap on them and I know all my kids will be pleased to receive a selection box, cracker or tree hanging gift this year. With prices starting from just £1 they are a delicious bargain and can be picked up at any supermarket.

Haribo sweets

Sudoku Cube Puzzle - £2.99
I love this 6cm x 6cm x 6cm cube, it is an amazing price and looks great quality too. Even better it will fit in JJ's stocking. Here is what they say on the Find Me A Gift site - "through the ungodly union of Sudoku and Rubik's cube, we bring you the Sudoku Cube! This fiendishly difficult little puzzle might look unassuming, but it's here to make you grit your teeth and swear under your breath in frustration." Just perfect for my smarty pants to keep him occupied for a few hours over Christmas, or in the car on a long journey.

Suduko game cube

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Posterhaste Family Portrait Review - A Perfect Gift

I love personalised gifts and I think this quirky family portrait from Posterhaste is a perfect Christmas gift for my husband. It was super easy to create, I could customise it to get it just how I wanted and there are a range of options to make it affordable for all pockets. An 8" x 10" print is just £20 and the largest size 20" x 32" print, in a 24" x 36" 100% wooden sealed frame is £115.00.

We went for a 12" x 16" print in a 16" x 20" black frame, as chosen by Miss E. I did fancy the light natural wood, but she (quite rightly, I expect) pointed out that my husband would probably prefer the black. This retails for £70.00.

I found the customisation tool on the Posterhaste site to be very easy to use. On the right hand side of the screen you choose whether you want a print, poster, framed print or box canvas and then you have the options for orientation. We went for landscape as there are five members of our family and also our new cat, so this seemed the most spacious way to display everyone.

You then choose the size, colour background for the picture and a title name. Next you add each of your family members and customise them to get a fun but recognisable likeness. I liked the fact you can choose some quirky items like headphones and a crown. It was an obvious choice for us to put a crown on Miss M's head and I'm sure it will make my husband smile when he sees it.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

36 Hours in London with my Hubby - A Big Reason to be Cheerful

How are you today friends? I hope the week has been treating you kindly. It’s been quite a good one here and I’m looking forward to a chilled and uneventful weekend.

The basis of this weeks Reasons to be Cheerful post was my overnight stay in London with my hubby last weekend. We only had 36 hours up there but it was enough to tire me out, as well as provide a fabulous time.

We headed up on the Friday morning once the kids were off to school and started the day with a wander of Borough Market, with coffee and cake at Southwark cathedral. It’s so nice to be able to chat without interruptions, and I really needed a break from hearing ‘Mum’!

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Lunch at London Steakhouse Co.and Visit the Shard, Buyagift Experience Days Review

With Christmas just around the corner it can be so hard to know what to buy for friends and family, especially as you get older as people have all the 'things' they want or need. In recent years I've been giving the gift of time to those I love. I have taken my Mum and daughters away to hotels, for gorgeous food or for thrills like Go Ape but it really can take so much time finding the best deals and planning it all.

What I've discovered this year is that there are companies who can do all the hard work for you, and brilliantly you can still secure a great price. I've been working with to review their "The View from The Shard with Three Courses and Cocktails at London Steakhouse Co." experience. The current price is £95, against an RRP of £160, so that's a brilliant saving of 41%.

The cost to book direct with The View from the Shard for two adult tickets is £49 and if you booked a three course set meal direct with the London Steakhouse Co. it would be £59, then £21 for the two cocktails, so that makes a total of £129 when booked direct. This means the £95 really is a very good saving and considering you know the experience is tried and tested, and you can read lots of independent reviews on the site, I think that's great.

Last weekend my husband and I headed up to London to attend a conference and stay overnight and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to go and try out the London Steakhouse Co. and we were not disappointed. There is the choice of the City or Chelsea restaurant and we opted for the City as this was most convenient for us and it is a great location, easily accessible to all the major train stations and just a few minutes walk from Liverpool Street tube station.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Catching Contentment by Liz Carter, A Really Great Read!

Liz Carter
Fifteen years ago when I was pregnant with JJ, I didn't have any friends who were pregnant, so I found myself on a site called BabyCentre virtually meeting lots of other women who were also expecting a child at the same time as me. We were the October 2003 birth club and now in 2018, I still regularly chat to around ten of those women, having met some of them a few times over the years.

One of them is an amazing and inspiring Christian woman called Liz Carter who writes a blog called A Great Adventure, which is a really great read. Liz has a wonderful way with words and I've enjoyed reading her musings over the years, so I was thrilled last year to discover she was writing a book. It's evident from Liz's writing that she has a deep and profound relationship with God and it has been amazing and uplifting to see over the years just how she has dug into this relationship and remained strong in her faith despite having a chronic lifelong illness.

I don't know if it is is because of, or in spite of, Liz's battles with lung disease and all the medical complications that accompany it, that Liz has a quiet confidence in our Lord, but her writing on contentment and why we can all capture it, whatever our situation is inspiring and accessible to all.

Catching Contentment is such an interesting book that really opened my eyes and introduced me to so many new ideas and concepts that I’ve truly never thought through before. I loved the practical reflections which really drew you into the topic and helped you reflect on your identity and contentment in a personal way.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Happy Thursday Friends! What's making you Cheerful?

It's time for Reasons to be Cheerful and I really wasn't feeling it as I wrote this on Wednesday night. I'm tired (the cat has taken to waking me at 4.15am!), I don't feel as if I've been productive today and I suspect I'm hormonal but sadly I never really know as my cycle isn't reliable.

However, as always just the act of writing out a gratitude post has put a smile on my face and reminded me that generally its been a good week and I have a fab weekend to look forward to as well.

They say a picture speaks a thousand words, so here we go....

I get to live here and I just love the views as the sun sets. At this time I was happily working along chatting to my boy, with a cappuccino in hand.

Miss E made banana and chocolate chip bread all by herself. I can't wait to try it tomorrow.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Seeing the Seals at Blakeney Point with Beans Boat Trips

seal pup

At the end of the summer we had a lovely stay in Fakenham, North Norfolk. We stayed at the White House cottage, which is an Air BnB property and we love it there. This is our second year staying and I’m sure we’ll go back as it suits all the family, with animals to keep the girls entertained, good Wi-fi for JJ and a lovely lounge and garden for my husband and I to fully relax in.

About a twenty minute drive away is the NationalTrust maintained nature reserve of Morston Quay and Blakeney Point. This is a great place to go for a family walk and just have a look around at the boats mooring up or travelling down the river.

We went there specifically to go out on a boat trip to see the seals which head there to relax and carry their babies. There are a number of companies offering boat trips out to see the seals, the two most popular ones seem to be Beans and Temples and from I understand from friends who have used both, they are are both reliable, quality and pretty much of a likeness.

Mum & daughters on a boat

For no particular reason we used Beans boats trips and all the information about sailing times and prices is on their website. You do need to call to make your booking but there is no payment in advance, you pay on the day when you arrive. For this reason there did appear to be some non-arrivals and there were plenty of people who’d arrived without reservations and were waiting in reserve.

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Reasons to be Cheerful - Italian, Community Day and Bathtime Bliss

I've loved it being half-term this week but I can't believe how quick it came about, and how quick it is whizzing by!

It's been a fab week, we took it pretty easy over the weekend as my husband was with his cub pack at camp but the girls and I enjoyed lunch at Prezzo.

Monday was community day here where we live, so everyone joined in with fun and games together. Loads of laughs were had and Miss E enjoyed making loads of cakes with my husband ready for the Autumn feast, we enjoyed in the evening.

Monday, 22 October 2018

A Simple Autumnal Walk Around Our Home

When we first moved to East Sussex over five years ago I used to share lots of pictures taken around the grounds of our home but I realise I haven't for quite some time now, So I need to rectify this.

You may know that I'm lucky enough to live within the 220 acre grounds of the Christian Conference Centre that my husband works at. This means we have access to large lawned areas, three lakes, loads of forest, a stream, lake swimming, a low ropes course and so much more. And all of this 365 days a year.

The other weekend Miss E and I took a Sunday afternoon walk together as she wanted to find some conkers. It turned out we were a bit late in the season as there weren't that many about but we did well for sweet chestnuts.

It was a lovely 90 minutes spent with Miss E, isn't it fab to spend one on one time with your kids?

Loving the cloud reflections in the next picture.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Preparing your Home for a New Baby

Congratulations, you have a new baby on the way and isn’t it exciting? There is so much to plan, what will you do about work? Will you baby wear? How will you feed your babe? What kind of pushchair do you want? The decisions go on and on but one thing I think some parents overlook in the pre-birth stage is getting the house ready for your baby.

There are several things you can do to make your life easier and your home more hygienic without breaking the bank – read on:

Carpets may be warm underfoot, but they really aren’t practical once you have children. I recall the amount of times we needed to bring the buggy in with sleeping babies, or once the kids got bigger and the muddy footprints they trailed in. A much better option is laminate flooring and there is a grade to suit every budget and a design for every style lover. The click-lock mechanism makes it very easy to fit, it withstands knocks well and can be easily swept and mopped clean for a hygienic floor you’re happy to let your baby eat from!

laminate flooring

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Reasons to be Cheerful: Teddies, Family Time and Pusspuss

Happy Thursday friends. I'm very happy to be joining in with Reasons to be Cheerful this week, I almost didn't but then remembered that it is so important to recognise all the good things that go on in our lives.

The best news for our family is that it is almost certain we have a gorgeous little black and white cat coming to live with us. He left his home over the summer and spent quite a few weeks in the grounds of the conference centre where we live. Once we'd made friends with him, I was able to read his chip and we found his owner, who took him home. They kept him in for around three weeks to help him acclimatise and as soon as he was let out again, he made his way straight back to us and meowed at our door to be let in. I contacted the owner again and they have said they think it is best if he comes to live with us, as he obviously enjoys it here. So a few things to iron out but I'm feeling positive.

I joined a local health club last Friday and then on Tuesday I had my first workout and swim, followed by a coffee and a quick read of my book. I can't wait to keep this going twice a week. I have my proper induction tomorrow.

We went to visit the Darvell community on Saturday afternoon. This is a local Christian community who all share resources, live simply and aim to demonstrate God's love to all. They are always a pleasure to spend time with and they treated us to burgers, fresh apple juice, tea and warm cookies from the oven, as well as cart rides, tractor rides, a petting zoo and nature crafts. The girls loved it!

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Warm Up Your Home for Cosy Family Nights

Image thanks to Pixabay

When it starts to get colder, it can make for some fun autumn and winter family outings. You don't want to be outdoors all the time, though, especially when it's raining and dark. Getting cosy at home can be just as fun, and there are plenty of family activities you can do to keep your spirits up during the dark and cold winter. Creating a cosy home for the winter isn't difficult, and you could do it in just a few easy changes. All you need are the right items to add a bit more comfort to different rooms in your home.

Get Some Ambient Lighting

The dark mornings and nights in the winter can get you down but having the right light and warmth at home goes a long way. A roaring fire is one of the best ways to have both but, in the absence of that, there are lots of other ways to get it right. Warm and ambient lighting can make a big difference, giving your home a cosy and welcoming glow. Rather than have bright ceiling lights, making use of lots of lamps with warm lighting is a great way to achieve the right effect. Floor lamps, table lamps and wall lights are all good choices, and candles can be a nice addition too (if you use them safely).

Snuggle into Pillows and Throws

Your living room (or whatever you call it) is a family space, where it's fun to spend a winter evening. If you want to make this space more warm and cosy, adding lots of pillows and throws is a fantastic way to do it. You can create a layered and textured look for your family room that will always look warm and inviting at the end of a long day. Try warm fabrics like wool and faux fur that you can really snuggle into.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Trying out the ZeroWater Filter #Review

Since we moved into our house five years ago we haven't enjoyed the taste of the tap water. I don't know if it is our pipes or something else because we happily drink water at our neighbours houses, but it has always had a funny taste here. As such, each week I order bottled water and of course I know this isn't a great thing to do as it creates too much plastic waste and costs us £4.50 a week for 12 x 2 litre bottles.

That means we are paying out £234 a year (at least, we order more in the summer) on water and of course that money could be better spent elsewhere. With that in mind I was very happy to hear about the ZeroWater filter that has a unique 5-stage filter which removes virtually all total dissolved solids (TDS), a claim which no other filter jug or dispenser can make. We did have a water filter jug before (the well known one) and we didn't find that this improved the taste of our water enough to sustain using it.

We've been using the ZeroWater filter for a couple of weeks now and I can confirm the taste of our water is much better and I'd be happy ongoing to use this rather than buying in water, from a taste point of view. The jug we received retails for £39.99 and it is a 2.8 litre (12 cup) model. I have to admit that when full I found it heavy to lift and my 11 year old girls couldn't lift it at all. This isn't such a problem as it has a one-handed 'push to dispense' button under the handle and this would be perfect, except ours is pretty stiff to press. So it is hit or miss if you can do it with one hand.

Here is Miss M using the 'push to dispense' button to fill her glass.

I have to say I was over the moon when I first realised that the ZeroWater filter would produce water that was good enough in taste that we could use it and not have to buy bottled water. At first I thought this was going to end up saving me about £200 a year and that would be excellent but you have to take the cost of the water filters into consideration.

Have a look at the TDS readings here, the first is tap water, with a high 333 reading, the next is the normal bottled water I buy (reading of 93) and the last, at just 004 is the ZeroWater filtered water.

Now because my tap water reading is so high (we have a local bore hole here that our water comes from) it means that my filter will only last for a reduced amount of water filtration, see the chart below -

This suggests that the level in my area is exceptionally high and even at the best case scenario, the filter would only last for 55 litres. I've seen that if you buy a single filter the cost is £19.99 per filter and if you buy 8 at a time, they work out to £11.24 per filter, but of course you've then just forked out £89.99 in one go instead of my usual £4.50 per week.

If each filter will only last me 55 litres (best case scenario), it means that the cost of the 8 filters will give me 440 litres of filtered water for £89.99. Whereas I could get 479 litres of bottled water for the same price, so unfortunately the ZeroWater actually works out more expensive. Of course it does save on all the plastic recycling, which is a great thing and I could choose to use my filter for far longer than the recommendation to change it when the TDS rating gets to 006 or higher. When you think that my bottled water has a reading of 93 and we've been happy with that for over 5 years, I think it means we can leave it for longer and make the filter more cost effective.

It is good to know that the water we are drinking from the ZeroWater filter is better for us as well. I'm not going to try and convince you though as truthfully, this isn't an area that I have any knowledge of. So take a look at the comparison chart and see how the ZeroWater filter compares to its competitor.

The headlines that stood out for me are that it is 3rd party tested to remove 99% of Chlorine, Fluoride, Radium and Asbestos and that it is certified to remove lead and other heavy metals.

In all we really like our ZeroWater filter, it works super well and produces a much better tasting water that is safer for us to drink. I'd just like the filters to be a better price, hopefully they will come down with time.

Disclosure: We were sent the water filter for the purpose of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.
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Thursday, 11 October 2018

International Day of the Girl - Advice to my Teenage Self #AdviceforGirls

Sorry for the image quality but when you are dealing with pictures taken in 1990 before the digital camera was even around, you tend to find they aren't the best quality. The above is me aged 17 years; I'm on holiday in Corfu with my (then) boyfriend. 

Today, on International Day of the Girl Compassion UK asked me to share a picture of myself aged 15 years old and I didn't have one to hand, this is as long ago as I can access, so it will have to do. The idea is to share advice I would give to my teenage self, so here goes....

Hey Mich, You're just a teenager still and already you have been on a number of diets and berated yourself for the way you look, but come on... just take a good look at that image above, you are gorgeous, you are brilliant and you are filled with potential. 

What I want you to know is that you are so much more than a body and a face. Please don't take any notice of what you see in the magazines, what you overhear the popular girls say about you, what the boys at the youth club or at school whisper about you, or even what you hear well-meaning relatives say when they think you're not listening. You are amazing!

In Psalm 139 God tells you that He knows you, inside and out, that He sees you, that you are fearfully and wonderfully made and that most importantly, you can never escape Him or His love for you. You don't need to meet societies expectations for beauty, because you already meet Gods. 

Mich, you are enough. God knows it, you need to believe it and live it. Please don't waste your time striving to be thinner, to be browner, to fit in or to be liked. Be uniquely you Mich, that is how God made you and He doesn't make mistakes. 

Have you got any idea how well this body will serve you in life? It will carry you to Ethiopia, Belarus and Washington as an advocate and activist working to help put an end to extreme poverty. It will birth three amazing and unique little beings. It will be a friend to many and help dozens of people, as a friend, volunteer and co-worker. 

Please don't waste another minute worrying Mich. God tells you not to be anxious  but to present your requests to Him in prayer and thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6-7). So the best thing you could do, right now, aged 17 years old is turn your life over to Christ and come to know His never-ending love for you.

He's got your back Mich! Just believe it.......

Of course today, many girls the word over, are worrying about their body and their beauty, just like I did and have done for many, many years. But as well as these kind of worries like |I had, there are also girls in so many countries who are worrying about much bigger issues, like where to get clean water or their next meal from, or perhaps who their husband will be when they marry at age 15 or 16.

Research from NGO Save the Children showed that Brazil is the worst country in South America in terms of girls development opportunities. It scores 102 out of 144 countries and the data is based on teenage marriage, teenage pregnancy and those girls completing secondary education.

Given these facts Compassion UK choose Brazil as the focus for their Handbook for Girls campaign, which is hoping to educate teenage girls there and change the amount of them dropping out of education early.

Image thanks to Compassion UK

Launched this summer, the campaign aims to raise £20,000 so that all 10,000 girls in Compassion's church-based projects in Brazil receive a Handbook with vital information on health, education, relationships and employment. The Handbooks are being developed by Compassion Brazil’s programme staff in partnership with child development experts, including psychologists and education professionals, and are aimed at girls aged 12-20 years.

What’s more, church partners will receive training in how best to support girls in the topics covered in the Handbook and boys will participate in workshops on the value of women. Each book costs just £2 to produce and distribute, which I think is a great use of such little money.

If you think what Compassion are doing in Brazil is important then I'd urge you to text EMPOWER to 70140 to give £4 and change the life of two girls in Brazil and visit Compassion UK for more information and the text-to-donate terms and conditions. 

Thanks for getting involved friends. It might not seem a lot we can do from the comfort of our warm homes here in the UK, but as I always maintain, every small action adds up and creates a ripple of change that one day will be so big it makes a monumental difference.

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Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Ways to Improve your Parenting Tool-Kit

Photo by Joshua Rodriguez on Unsplash

We all want to be the best parent we can be to our little ones, to maximise the amount of family time we have with them and to improve our skills that will help them navigate their way through life. But how do we become better parents? Of course, time helps, and you learn on the job, so to speak. Your confidence grows as your child does, or as you have more children. However, some parents like to bolster their parenting skill set with more tools and to be proactive, rather than just organic in how they grow their parenting tool-kit.

Here are a few ideas for gaining new skills which will help you on your parenting journey -

Nursing Skills 
Every parent has that inner panic when their little one injures themselves; you want to do the best for your child and make sure you don’t make the problem even worse. So why not develop your caring skills, with a first aid course or you could consider online nurse midwifery courses, where you can earn a reputable degree and a real sense of achievement. Not only will you learn how to take care of babies professionally, but you might just find a career path that you truly adore.

Calming Skills
When your life gets hectic it can be very difficult to keep your cool at times. Of course, you want to stay calm for your children, but it can be difficult seeing it through, especially in times of high stress. You could become a better parent by practising calming methods in the comfort of your own home, even for just a few minutes a day. Meditation, mindful or centering prayer are great ways to tune out of your problems and to just focus on the here and now. These methods can then be employed next time your child is acting in a stressful manner.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Staying in Paris at the Adagio Paris Bercy Village

bercy village header

Back in July it was my Mums 70th birthday and as a treat, my brother and I (funded by our lovely Dad) took her away to Paris. I'd spent ages looking for accommodation that was reasonably priced but could sleep two women and a man without us all being in one room. Hotels were coming up really expensive for two rooms and I didn't fancy three single beds in one room and no room to move about. 

I ended up booking the Aparthotel Adagio access Paris Philippe Auguste, which is situated in the 20th arrondissment, next to the Père Lachaise Cemetery an close to metro links into the centre. The price was 463.93 Euros for three of us for three nights and I thought this was reasonable for Paris.
Imagine my surprise when the day before I received an email telling me there was a technical error and we couldn't stay at this aparthotel, but they had booked us out to Adagio Paris Bercy Village and that it was a higher specification aparthotel. On the one hand the accommodation did look better and had the benefit of air-conditioning, but on the other it was quite a bit further away from Gare du Nord where we were arriving in to.

Inside the Adagio Paris Bercy Village
Public areas at Adagio Paris Bercy Village

Friday, 5 October 2018

Family Visit to the British Wildlife Centre, Surrey

British wildlife centre header

My husband loves both photography and animals/ birds, so for his birthday we decided to combine those two things and headed over to the British Wildlife Centre, in Lingfield, Surrey. We didn’t really know what to expect as it didn’t look the biggest place but the reviews on Trip Advisor were very good and that’s always encouraging.

The cost for two adults and to children (a family ticket) was £37.00 and we just hoped that our time there would be worth this cost as well as the two hours round journey. Thankfully we had the most wonderful visit, staying for four hours and thoroughly enjoying ourselves.

We arrived just before 1pm and headed straight down to the Dell for the hedgehog talk. I wondered how much interest one tiny animal could hold but it was great, the keeper was really informative, he was easy to hear and understand and I learnt something too. All whilst watching the little hedgehog scampering all over the place. Who knew they were so fast? Then when we got to see the hedgehog up close he was cute beyond words.


Thursday, 4 October 2018

JJ's Birthday, Family Visit and Taking Time #R2BC

Happy Thursday friends. Today is my baby boys birthday and he turns 15, I can hardly believe how quick times goes by. I'm so pleased to say that I still really like him and enjoy spending time with him. I don't think he's your average 15 year old (if there is such a thing) as he is mostly found at home and thankfully not getting into all the mischief I was at his age.

He still agrees to come out for a coffee with me and if I ask him for help, he is generally there, so I count myself lucky. But of course I still get that bit of teenage attitude at times, although I think his Dad does more than me. I'm so grateful that I'm here when he returns from school as those are the times he wants to chat to me.

I'm excited to see what his future holds, he is a really bright kid and I hope he keeps applying his intellect and doing well at school, so he can have the best opportunities open to him when he decides what he will go on to do as a career. Happy birthday my boy, we love you.

I mentioned last week that my parents and Aunt were staying for a week and that was fab, they were able to help me when I felt ill, they had the girls to stay whilst my husband and I took JJ out for his birthday meal and cinema, we had lots of meals out together and had a visit to Batemans, where I got a rare photo of me with both parents.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Christmas Gift Guide: 5 Things Every Teen Girl needs for a Break Away

Header for girls christmas gifts to take on holiday

Every young woman loves to go away, whether that's with school, youth club, their family or perhaps a friends family. There is so much excitement in the preparations and getting ready for that special time.

Years back with our eldest we started to give experience gifts rather than money or physical gifts, as we found that the kids had everything they needed and frankly the thing they wanted most was one-on-one time with either my husband or I.

JJ and my husband have had so many great stays up in London, visiting museums, going to the cinema, exploring the Thames and of course eating too much. Once our twin girls Miss M and Miss E were old enough they wanted in on the action too and the first year I took them both away with my Mum for to a holiday park for some girlie fun . Then this year they choose to split up and Miss M went to London with my husband and Miss E and I headed to Surrey for a spa break.

Who knows where next year will take us but the girls have already said they want to go away as their Christmas gifts, so I suppose I ought to start scouring sites like Secret Escapes now to see what luxury hotels I can find for bargain prices.

Miss M, in particular is a very girlie girl and loves the excitement of the holiday preparation and packing as much as she does the time away, so I'm thinking that for Christmas I might ask the family to get her some great gifts to make her time away really special. Here are five tops picks I think every teen (or even tween) girl will love -

1.   Alfa Italia Viaggio TRAVEL styler set
Miss M has just got in to straightening her hair and she religiously washes and blow drys it a few times a week, so this travel style kit from Alfa Italia is just right. It is super stylish in black with gold accents and combines Italian design with premium quality professional hair styling tools. It retails for £39.95 and is exclusively available from the Chill Cabinet.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

10 Ways to keep the Magic of Christmas Alive for your Kids

child reaching for christmas light
Photo by Max Bender on Unsplash

It won’t be that long before the big day is upon us, but more than the actual day, I love the build up. The anticipation of the fun to come, watching the kids get more and more excited, smelling all those spiced biscuits and gingerbread, wondering if snow will fall and of course the buying, hiding and wrapping of the gifts.

I truly believe that Christmas is a much more magical time when viewed through the eyes of a child and as such I’m very happy to indulge my children in all their favourite pre-Christmas activities as they grow older. My 15 year old JJ, of course, is under no illusion that a cuddly fat chap in red comes down our chimney and my 11 year old twins don’t believe either, but we’re in that funny phase where I haven’t confirmed or denied. Last year they asked me again and I threw it back to them, asking if they liked the idea of Father Christmas? They both said they did, so I told them to enjoy it and forget the rest.

If like me, you want to help keep the magic of Christmas alive in the run up to the big day, why not check out these ideas of activities to do with your children -

Send a letter to Santa - £
I’m sure, at one time or another, every child has written a letter to Father Christmas, it’s a great way as a parent to learn what gift their heart may be desiring this year, but be careful not to do it too early with young children as they are prone of changing their mind. I know this from experience! You can buy letter writing packs, print a template off the web or just use regular paper.

Friday, 28 September 2018

Visiting National Trust Felbrigg Hall with Tweens/ Teens

felbrigg hall header image

Whenever I chat to my friends who have older kids, I hear the same thing again and again. ‘Oh yes, we went to a National Trust property yesterday and the kids all moaned and didn’t want to go and then they ended up having a wonderful time’. It’s completely the same for my family, my 11-year-old twin girls yawn and whinge about having to go and my 14-year-old lad says “at least you can get a good cream tea there” and is just resigned to the fact that he has to come off his PC every now and then and have a bit of family time.

We’ve been to quite a few NT properties now and we always have a great time. My husband and I said the other day that whilst they are all different, there are a lot of similarities with the properties sporting a stately home, and if you aren’t a massive history buff then they could become a bit boring. But what I think the NT do really well is engage all the family. Recently we were on holiday in Norfolk and we headed to Felbrigg Hall, it’s a well-maintained house with a superb walled kitchen garden and a large estate to explore.

Felbrigg Hall

Thursday, 27 September 2018

#R2BC - The Joy in my Hospital Visit!

Happy Thursday friends, I'm super glad to be here writing this post this week. I had a bit of a scare earlier in the week when I woke in so much pain that within half hour I was white, pouring with sweat, dizzy, nauseous and suffering with diarrhoea.

To cut a long story short within a short while I was in an ambulance on my way to hospital and some tests and fluids later I was out again with a diagnoses of 'a stonking infection'. I had to love the doctors words!

So this weeks reasons to be cheerful are all around my hospital day!

1.  The NHS - we are so lucky in the UK to access to a health care system that is free for use at any time. Yes for years I've paid in to it with my NI contributions, but I much prefer it that way, than having to worry about how many tests I needed and what that would have cost!

2.  My husband - he is so cool and calm in a medical crisis, it amazes and reassures me no end!

3.  My Dad - my parents are staying this week and it was fab that Dad was able to stay in and receive my shopping order and then pick the kids up from their clubs for a couple of days.

4.  The hospital cafe - when I finally got to eat on Tuesday, I had the best sausage sandwich ever, I was so hungry!

Monday, 24 September 2018

JJ's Getting Outdoor Ready with Simply Hike

Simply Hike header

Regular readers will know that my boy loves to be out and about in the great outdoors. For years he was a Beaver, then Cub and then Scout. He then joined the Police cadets last year and more recently an Adventure in Creation programme at the large conference centre where we live. These clubs mean that he gets involved with all sorts of amazing and exciting activities such as kayaking, hiking, orienteering, bouldering, wood carving, paint balling and camping out.

He's also waiting to find out when the next Duke of Edinburgh course will start and if he's been accepted on to it. We're hoping he will be, due to his varied experience, both outdoors, and through paid and voluntary work.  Of course when you're spending a lot of time outdoors, especially in the Autumn and Winter months you need to have very good clothing and footwear to ensure you stay warm and dry.

JJ was super lucky that Simply Hike wanted to send him a couple of items to help him get kitted out for this year. As that's the problem with teens, they just keep on growing, but I'm now hoping at a size eleven feet and XL jacket that he may just stop there and he can enjoy these items for some years to come.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Boom25 - If you're not in, you won't win!

The Boom25 slogan reminds me a bit of the National Lottery slogan - you've got to be in it to win it, but in my opinion Boom25 is a far better bet. I mean, what are the chances of you winning the National Lottery? Pretty slim and you also have to pay in the first place to be involved. Not the case with Boom25. Oh no, this is the cashback site where you have a 1 in 25 chance to win your full purchase price back and you don't have to spend anything with Boom25 to sign up or be eligible for that win. All you are paying out is the cost of the items you've ordered online, but seeing as you were ordering that anyway it's all good.

Have a peek at the tutorial below and Boom25 will explain more themselves -


I've never heard of anything like Boom25 before, it certainly is an unusual concept but I do love the thrill of being able to get fully refunded for my purchase rather than just receiving a few pennies back as a percentage of the total sale, like traditional cashback sites give. I also like the fact that even if I'm not the lucky 25th customer with an eligible purchase, I'll get a bonus to go in my pot, ready to be paid out when I do have a win.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Happy Thursday - #R2BC

Munching on our salad leaves!

Happy Thursday friends!

It's time for our burst of cheeryness and I had plans to do this earlier whilst enjoying a nice cold diet coke at the Premier Inn, as I waited for JJ to finish Police cadets. However it was not to be as there was no parking, due to building works going on, so I had a take-away coffee in Lidl car park and waited. My life is all about the glamour, but it wasn't productive for getting the laptop out and typing, so now I'm reduced to a mega quick cheery bullet post...  here goes....

1.  A great day out at Knole Park with our pastoral group. We had a yummy pic-nic, fed the friendly deer, looked around the house, took a nice walk and the minibus broke down! lol  but it was all fine once the recovery guys turned up.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Fantastic Family Time at Harvester Restaurants

JJ hits the ripe old age of 15 in a couple of weeks and his favourite celebratory thing to do is eat, so when Harvester invited us to the Horse and Groom in Polegate, East Sussex we jumped at the chance. I'll be honest, our family used to be loyal Harvester customers but about five years ago they had a menu overhaul and we stopped going as we didn't like the changes. With this in mind and another new menu, I was keen to go and see what Harvester could offer our family of five nowadays.

I won't beat around the bush, we had a great meal at the Harvester. None of us had been to the Horse and Groom before and it is a super venue, there are a few different seating areas, all with modern furnishings and lights, so different to the Harvester of my childhood when there were pitchforks on the walls! There were still the classic elements to remind me I was in a Harvester, like the salad bar, help yourself fresh bread rolls, open fronted kitchen and rotisserie chicken cabinet.

On arrival at the Horse and Groom we were greeted quickly by Mo and he asked if we wanted a children's menu. I questioned if the girls could have it as they are 11 and it suggests on the website that it is for 10 years and younger but Mo, said it was fine and the portion sizes should be suitable too. This was great to hear as the £5.99 price tag for a meal, drink and dessert is fabulous.

Mo then suggested my girls would be too old for colouring but I knew that at least one of them would want it, so we had a laugh about how hard it is to judge children, as Mo said many turn their noses up at his offer of the kiddie activity bag and crayons.

We were shown to a small area with just three tables and one was occupied when we arrived but by the time we left it was just us. Everywhere felt very clean and taken care of and its always nice when you can see into the kitchen and the chefs are in fresh whites.

We choose our drinks and all went for the same option of help yourself soda. My girls love this as it means they can add flavours like vanilla, peach and cherry to their Pepsi, lemonade or Robinsons squash. I personally just like the straight Diet Pepsi and it is good to have the option to refill as many times as I like for £2.90.

Our waitress was Lauren and she was such a nice girl. Even we we took ages choosing, or Miss E changed her mind, or we needed more cutlery, she was helpful and sympathetic. We couldn't have asked for a better waitress and our food all came out in good time and was fresh and hot.

Once we had ordered we headed up to the salad bar and it was well stocked and all the food looked fresh and good quality. There was also a large array of dressings and sauces on offer and the kids were made up that they could help themselves to as many white or brown bread rolls as they liked.

We just went for one sharing plate for a starter for the five of us and the £9.49 nachos platter was enough for us all to enjoy. JJ commented that he loved that there was a really decent portion of cheese on them and us girls appreciated them putting the toppings in separate dishes rather than on top as they usually do.

The adult menu has a great selection and the three of us choosing from that one each went for something different, so we could get a wide range of foods. Have a look what we had -

My husband went for the Harvester '83 combo - £13.99 with half rotisserie chicken, half rack of BBQ glazed ribs, sage and onion fries, corn on the cob and speciality gravy. He said that everything on his plate was really good and the meats were succulent and not dry at all.

JJ went for the mammoth Ultimate Mixed Grill - £21.49 (well it was his birthday), with a quarter portion of rotisserie chicken, 8oz rump steak, a half rack of BBQ glazed ribs, 7oz gammon steak, two pork sausages, two fried free-range eggs and two black pudding slices, and he even choose to double up on his chips for an extra £1. JJ loved his dinner and was loath to share any with any of us but Miss E did charm him into letting her have one of the sausages.

I had the Big Shorty, which is a Slow Roasted Rib of Beef, with a jacket potato and sour cream, coleslaw and corn on the cob - £17.49 and 49p for the sour cream. It's described as melt-in-the-mouth and it was but it also was really fatty and I had no idea that would be the case, so it wasn't such a good choice for me as I'm trying to cut down at the moment.

Both girls ate off the children's menu and the variety on there is excellent. There is a small appetites section, a larger appetites section and also a Harvester recommends section, which is what my girls choose from. This gave them the more 'grown up' options like ribs, steak and salmon.

Miss M went for the Ribs with sweet potato fries and corn on the cob - £6.49. She really enjoyed this and was pretty full after her salad, pasta and olives from the salad bar.

Miss E went for 4oz Rump Steak with sweet potato fries and peas. She found the steak a little chewy but I think this was as we ordered it medium/ well and as it was a small piece this meant it was cooked quite a lot. My husband ended up eating the steak and he insisted it was just fine.

Once we'd all finished the girls started to twitter about desserts and could they have a big one? In the end Miss E went for a child's dessert - the Build your own Cookie - £2.49, which she wasn't too fussed on to be honest as the cookie was quite soft as it had a mousse in it, whereas she thought it would be a crisp biscuit cookie. I probably ought to mention that after we had ordered Lauren came out to inform us that they didn't have any strawberries or blueberries that should have come with this dessert, but she offered strawberries in juice that they use in the sundaes and fudge pieces. Miss E was happy with this.

Miss M went for an adult dessert and opted for the Cookie Monster Freakshake - £5.49 and she was super happy with this milkshake/ dessert.

I took advantage of Miss M having an adult dessert and went for a children's Rocky Horror - £2.09 and this was more than perfect for me. I've always adored this dessert and to be able to have a mini portion of brownies, ice cream, cream, cone and sauce was wonderful.

JJ, I'm glad to say, realised he was stuffed and didn't go for a dessert or even a coffee and my husband joined him in abstaining, saying that he had thoroughly enjoyed his meal and was satisfied.

We left the restaurant after about an hour and forty-five minutes and headed home a very happy family. We'd had great food and there had been a nice relaxed ambiance at the restaurant.

In all we had a superb meal and we were all happy with our food choices, The one thing I'd comment is that some of the adult main courses are pretty pricey. In our local area it is normal to pay around £11 for a decent burger and chips, so these are on a par but for some of the dishes at £14 - £21 it felt a bit out of our price range as a family wanting to eat out. I suppose you do have to remember though that you get unlimited salad and bread rolls in the price of your main course. We thought the choice of kids meals, especially the deal were excellent and we'd happily buy those again.

I would say to definitely sign up to the mailing list as I often receive good deals, just last week I received details of their earlybird offer and this is where you can get 33% off any of their adult main meals if you eat between 2-5pm Monday to Friday. It really took me back, as years ago Harvester used to do the same earlybird offer and my family always went along and enjoyed the Original Combo!

I'm so pleased to see the Early Bird return and it will be enough to get my family going again, especially after the great meal we had on this visit. Just think the £13.99 meal my husband had (which would be my normal first choice) becomes just £9.37 with the 33% early bird discount.

Why not pin this post for later?

Harvester polegate pin

Disclosure:  We received our meal free of charge for the purpose of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest. 
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