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.


Conclusion
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!

Draughts
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.

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Taking Life Lightly #MySundayPhoto


Last Thursday we headed to Blakeney Point by boat to see all the seals and it was a wonderful experience. The baby seals are so fluffy and gorgeous, but this is the one who really captured me.

I think he is reminding us that life is meant to be fun and we should take it lightly!

Today I'm joining up with Darren over at Photalife for #MySundayPhoto, which I don't think I've ever done before. Here is to many more to come.

Photalife

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