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 several 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 boat 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 the 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 world 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 kinds 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 chooses 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.

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 two 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
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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 into 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.