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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Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Saving money on your energy bills? Don’t be daunted!

LED lightbulb & coin stack image by Magnetic Mcc, thanks to Shutterstock

With summer now a distant memory, many of us are tempted to turn on the heating and feel a bit of warmth again! Then, not to mention the nights getting darker a lot faster, so we’re seemingly going through lightbulbs quicker than ever! For many of us, using more energy during the winter months is a worrying prospect – energy prices are soaring, and our bills are not only confusing, but also high. 

So, what can you do to make sure you’re making the most of the energy you have? And how can you save money in the long term? Read on for some helpful advice and handy tips on saving money on your energy bills.

Switch to LED lighting
Yes. Replacing your lightbulbs with LED lighting can save you a fortune in electricity bills and also bulbs – check them out here! Traditional energy saving bulbs are great, but many homeowners dislike the dim light they first emit when they’re switched on. LED bulbs are instantly bright, available in a huge range of colours, warmth and styles and use 90% less electricity than traditional bulbs!

If you’re already using LED or energy saving bulbs then make sure that every light is switched off when you leave the room, and make sure everyone in the home applies the same rule!

There’s nothing worse than getting comfortable at home and feeling a draught around your legs or head! To stop heat escaping through gaps you'll need to find the source of the draught and take steps to block it up. For windows and doors that let out heat, consider using draught proof strips around the edges and the frames, and don’t forget a trusty draught excluder for underneath the door.

If you have a chimney or fireplace that you don’t use, and it’s causing a draught, then consider blocking it up with an inflatable pillow, or call in an expert to fit a chimney pot cap. Don’t forget that you can also cover up key holes and letter boxes on an evening to prevent warm air escaping! It’ll stop you cranking up the thermostat and wasting/ paying for extra energy.

Switch up your appliances
It might be unrealistic to replace all your household items with energy efficient models, so instead, consider upgrading your appliances when the ones you have come to the end of their working lives. When you go to purchase a new appliances, check out it’s EU energy efficiency rating as changing your appliance to a more energy efficient one can actually save you hundreds of pounds each year, so it’s a really good investment.

Switch your energy supplier
Yes, it might seem like a long, boring and arduous task but one of the quickest and most instantaneous ways of saving money on your energy bills is by switching your energy supplier. Many of us aren’t even aware of the tariff we’re on which means we could be spending hundreds of pounds that we shouldn’t be. Head over to a comparison site and see how much you could be potentially saving. you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

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Friday, 14 September 2018

My Top Five Legal Dramas to Watch Right Now!

I absolutely love getting absorbed in a good box set and drama is definitely my go-to genre. Give me medical, political, crime or legal dramas and I really am in my happy place.

I can't believe how cheap it is nowadays to be able to watch all the programmes that I love. For less than the cost of a trip to the cinema for my husband and I we have everything we want at our fingertips. We have Netflix, which costs £7.99 a month and also NOW TV, which is £6.99 per month for the entertainment pass.  However I got lucky with the McDonalds Monopoly earlier this year and got a 6 month pass for free, so it has been super cheap this year.

In case you're looking for some new legal dramas, I thought I'd share with you my top five -

1.  Suits
Suits has to come in as my top pick. Since I first met Harvey Spector, about three years ago I have been hooked. Suits follows the lives of the a group of lawyers and the cases they work on. Zane, Spector, Litt are the criminal lawyers that can solve just about any case, and all the while maintaining complex social lives and interesting office politics. I'm watching season 8 week by week as a new episode is released and I can't wait to see what happens next. Who knows maybe Harvey will move away and join a firm of Sydney criminal lawyers, or maybe not?  What I am hoping, is that there might be a little romance between him and Samantha Wheeler, the new character played by Katherine Heigl.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Back to School - Reasons to be Cheerful

Thursday has rolled around again, I’m not sure why this year seems to be going past in a whirl but it’s ok, that’s life I suppose. You just have to embrace every day and take what you can from it.

Last week saw my girls starting secondary school and I’m pleased to report that a week later they are still dead happy and loving being at big school. I think they’ve still being lulled into a false sense of security at the moment as they haven’t had much homework yet, but they are more than ready for the change.

Both of them have been talking about a new friend each, so I pray that those friendships grow and I’ve said to the girls they can have their friends over for dinner when they fancy. They also start at our church youth club this Friday and I hope that will be a place where they have fun and grow in their faith.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Tips for Creating a Harmonious Home

Happy family at home image by Monkey Business Images, thanks to Shutterstock

Your home is supposed to be your sanctuary, but when you return to it in the evening and there’s piles of clutter, wet washing and arguing kids, it can feel like your own personal torture chamber.

Bringing order and harmony to your household is as much a mental and emotional exercise as a physical process, but let’s start with the physical for now, as it’s the easiest way to get the ball rolling.

Start on the clutter
Piles of mail, books, papers, toys and plates create emotional pressure. They’re silently screaming at you to sort them out, but often, you don’t know how or where to start. Just start on one pile and forget about the others. Can’t decide which one? Pick the one nearest to you and just do it.

Create a calm outdoor space
Whatever the size of your garden, you can make it better and more inviting by raking the leaves, scattering some wildflower seeds on the borders and fixing that gate (finally). If you worry about people letting their dogs poop on your lawn or near your gate, or about cold-callers knocking at the door, visit the my security sign website to see if you could use one of their customised outdoor signs.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Being a Finalist in the #BiBs2018 and Impostor Syndrome

Blogging awards, they are funny old things. On the one hand I love them, they are a public acknowledgement for a job well done, for working hard, for engaging your readers. Then on the other I loathe them, they can be a popularity contest, with those who shout the loudest winning.

My love:hate relationship with blogging awards has been going on since 2011 when I was a finalist in the family life category of the MAD blog awards. I’d only seriously been blogging for around a year and I was so made up that my readers would nominate me and then vote for me. I honestly thought I’d win, not from a vanity point of view, thinking I was the best but I was just swept away with the glamour and accolade of it.

I didn’t win, Jane at Northern Mum did and it was well deserved as she has an awesome comic voice that I could never hope to emulate. I remember dusting my pride off and thinking ‘oh well, there’s always next year’ and for a few years I continued to be nominated and then a finalist in both the MADs and the BIBs. Always the bridesmaid and never the bride is the phrase that comes to mind.

Left to right: Penny, Clare, Gemma, me, Michelle and Anya

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Model for A Day #MySundayPhoto #CountryKids

This is Miss E, she is normally behind the camera, as she is a keen photographer and is lucky enough to have herself a superb 4K Panasonic Lumix camera. 

When we were on holiday a couple of weeks back, we spent a day at Felbrigg Hall, a lovely National Trust site and quite promptly Miss E handed her camera over to her sister and told her she was her model for the day!

They had a lot of fun together, posing and snapping photos. 

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Plenty to be Cheerful about #R2BC

Happy September friends, I can’t believe how quickly the year is passing by. We have done so much this year and yet I only feel like it should be May or June, but no we are heading into the Autumn and the kids are all back to school, or should I say my girls have started secondary school, but that will be the subject of next weeks R2BC.

For this week I’m sharing about our holiday last week. We took ourselves off to visit Adams parents and then had four nights in a North Norfolk, having wonderful family time. Here are just a few of the things that made this a simple and joyous holiday -

Fresh eggs every day. I love eggs and especially when they are fresh. The cottage that we book has numerous chickens, so each morning Miss M went out and got us fresh eggs for our breakfast, we had egg and bacon baps, fried eggs on toast, scrambled eggs and even eggs bread. We had to make the most of them! You'll also see her with Dave the pony in the top picture, this house is her idea of heaven with loads of animals. 

Getting through a whole book. I adore reading, especially light and fluffy romance fiction, so it was fabulous to have enough time and space on this break to get through a whole Debbie Macomber book. I read Cottage by the Sea and it is a lovely read, there’s a bit of everything - tragedy, rejection, love, forgiving yourself and starting again.