Tuesday, 21 May 2019

How to Get Bargain Price West End Theatre/ Musical Tickets

9 to 5, The Musical
9 to 5, the Musical

I absolutely love going to the theatre in London's West End but we all know that it can end up pricey. Before having my children I had seen most every musical that was out and my husband and I would think nothing of spending £80 or a £100 on each ticket. After the children came along, that just wasn't practical anymore and my trips up to London for the theatre became few and far between.

A few years back I realised how much I was missing out and started to find out how I could see some of the big name shows without spending a fortune. I have been lucky enough to see some crackers in the last few years - 42nd Street, Wicked, The School of Rock, Dream Girls, Thriller Live and the Curious Incident, all for a great price.

So I'm going to share with you how you can bag great price tickets too, but don't worry, you won't be sat up in the upper circle, I only like to be in the stalls or front of the Royal Circle, so I always get good seats.

1. Enter the Ticket Lottery for the Show you fancy
Have you heard of a ticket lottery?  I think many people haven't yet and they are great. You can enter online to be part of a lottery (lucky dip) to get one or two top price tickets for a much reduced rate. Of course many times you won't win but it is super easy to enter and costs nothing, so why not give it a go. I've entered a couple of times and won tickets for Matilda once. Sadly I couldn't use them as I got the week wrong, but I was able to pass them on for someone else to enjoy.

Matilda the Musical - up to 2 £25 band A tickets, drawn 3-5 days before the performance.

The School of Rock - up to 2 £15 band A tickets, drawn 3-5 days before the performance.

Hamilton the Musical - up to 2 £10 tickets, drawn the day prior. There is a 22 hour entry window.

Aladdin the Musical - up to 2 £20 tickets, the lottery opens at 11am on Mondays and closes at 11am on Tuesdays. Entrants can select up to 3 choices of performance for the next week

Aladdin Theatre Show

The Book of Mormon - up to 2 £20 tickets, entries accepted from 12 noon each Wednesday for performances the following week. Also there is a daily lottery in person, you can enter 2.5 hours before the performance.

Friday, 17 May 2019

Reasons to be Cheerful - The New Job Edition!

Whoop, whoop. I think the title gives away my main reason to be cheerful this week. I am super chuffed that I am starting a new job on 3rd June. I'll be working 2 or 3 days a week helping to put together the adult programme for Spring Harvest, the Christian holiday that I've attended at Easter for the last fourteen years.

But next year I'll be part of the team working there and making sure that the 3,000 or so other people have an amazing time. I am so excited to be taking on this role and being a part of this amazing company.

I've had to make some changes to take on my role and commit to the hours but I think they will all be good changes.

  • I've given notice at my gym and will join a new one just moments away from my new work, to start in September. The new one looks much better and I hope is cleaner!
  • I'll have a 35 minute drive to work and back each day. Great time to think, sing, listen to podcasts and generally have my God time.
  • The kids will have to get themselves up in the morning and it will be a good thing that they'll have less reliance on me calling them. The worst culprit nowadays is JJ!
  • The kids will cook dinner two nights a week for when I get home late and again this is great for them to develop skills and independence. 
  • I had to stop the breastfeeding peer supporter course that I had started as I can't commit to the hours that requires, along with my new work. 
  • I've stopped Slimming World, as truth be told I was just paying lips service to it. There is no denying that I need to lose weight and get healthier, but I need to find what works for me and I'm hoping that a new challenge will be the catalyst I need for change. 
I am so pleased that my new work have been flexible and allowed me to do differing days in the next couple of months whilst I had lots of commitments already in the diary and then in September, I'll move to three shorter days and start my new normal.

Wish me luck!

I'm linking this post up with Becky at Lakes Single Mum for the Reasons to be Cheerful linky. She is hosting it for the month of May and I'll be the host again in June. 

Monday, 13 May 2019

Getting a Better Nights Sleep to Help your Mental Health

Grey cat asleep on bed
Image Credit: Photo by Alexander Possingham on Unsplash

{This post has been commissioned by TEMPUR®}

The average British adult gets 6 hours and 42 minutes sleep per night (1), making me very much average. I had to chuckle when I looked at my FitBit and saw that lasts weeks average was 6 hours and 46 minutes, and yet I still feel tired many days. I’m not alone though, as us Brits are trying all sorts to help us improve our sleep quality – meditation, exercise or seeking professional help for our mental health or sleep issues.  

Mental health is an area of keen interest now, and I am so pleased to find that some of the stigma and secrecy is being shed. It is of course OK to admit you have depression, anxiety or any other number of mental health disorders, and to seek help for them. As someone who had late-onset postnatal depression after having my twins and occasionally suffers with bouts of anxiety, I know that I feel much better and more in control I feel when I am sleeping well. The benefits of good quality sleep really can’t be under-estimated, and it’s easy to recognise when I am deficient in sleep as I am irritable, lack concentration and the simplest things can phase me.

This week is the UK’s Mental Health Awareness week (13 – 19th May 2019) and this year they have chosen to focus on mental health and body image. Another hot topic, and in this image driven society, one that can be challenging. I was interested to read the findings of the mental health surveycommissioned by TEMPUR®, which found that only 38% of Brits say the quality of their sleep is good or excellent (1) and 30% recognise that poor quality sleep impacts their mental health.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Living your Children’s Lives

Teen boy enjoying a pizza
JJ at his happiest, with a big pizza in front of him!

Sometimes it can be really tricky not to try and impose your world view and to live your child’s life for them. And I don’t mean the extremes, we all know parents who are a failed musician or weren’t encouraged in their desire to be a model and now have a child who is excelling in that hobby or career.

I’ve always been keen for my children to be unique, just the way God created them to be. So whilst in my heart I had this desire that JJ would be an amazing musician and would lead worship in our church, I knew from an early age it probably wouldn’t happen as he didn’t show any interest in playing an instrument. I could have signed him up for lessons and bought a guitar or keyboard, putting all my energy into him mastering his craft, but that would have been about me, not him, and that’s not fair.

So despite my unfulfilled aspirations (singer, runner, artist) I let my kids be and waited to see where their personalities would take them. If you asked me I’d probably have told you that I had this part of parenting nailed, I wasn’t projecting my desires onto the kids and they were free to do what they fancied.

However, as I was chatting with JJ during the recent Easter break I realised this isn’t quite true. I do have expectations and norms that I was subconsciously expecting them to conform to. Not to attend clubs, master hobbies or attain beyond their means but just in regard to how their life might look, how they spend their time. I’ll explain.

Monday, 6 May 2019

Knockhatch Meerkat Experience: My Girls had the Best Fun! (Review)

Meerkat experience at knockhatch header

During the Easter holiday we took a trip over to Knockhatch Adventure Park in Hailsham, East Sussex.  We've been before (check out my review here) and the girls had a fabulous time, but I'd never been on a weekend or on a school holiday before and wow, it was busy. As we drove up we were directed to an overflow car park and if I'm honest, I started to feel a bit of dread at how busy it might be, but despite it being super busy I have to so I was pleasantly surprised and we had a great day. The girls were able to get one everything they wanted and the queues were nothing like I've experienced at theme parks like Legoland.

I won't go into all the attractions that are available at Knockhatch (you can have a look at my review, I've linked to above if you fancy more insight), but there are loads and they seem to be really good at adding extra attractions and offering more value. This year they've added a great new wooden Dragons play castle and high wire experience. The basic ticket on an orange day (high season) is £12.99 before any discount is applied and if you book online, you get 20% discount, or my favourite is to use our local 1066/ Town City Card and get 25% off. 

Costs and Booking
The great news is that when you are going along to take part in one of their experiences the entrance to the park is included and you can use the park for the whole day. We got a 2 for 1 Meerkat experience via Red Letters Days and the cost for this currently is £49, which is a super bargain, as this allowed both girls entry to do their experience and up to two adults (17 years plus) can go along as their responsible adults/ spectators. So that is £49 for entry for four and two of those got to spend 30 minutes hands on with the meerkats.  They have a few experiences available and we would definitely book for another one as we found the meerkat one excellent. 

When I booked last year, I had to ring but I see now you can book online for the experiences. To get a weekend date I needed to book about 3 months in advance. There are two slots for the meerkat experience each day 10.30am and 4pm, each lasts for half an hour and it will only be your party, which feels really exclusive.  The price to book direct with Knockhatch is £48 for one person and £64 for two people. 

Once booked you're advised to wear long trousers, sleeves and closed in shoes for the experience.

Friday, 3 May 2019

Updating your Tween Girls Bedroom with Minimum Effort but Maximum Impact

Photo by Mister M on Unsplash
{Collaborative post}

I don't know about you but as soon as Spring arrives and the sun makes an appearance, I feel like I want to get the house in order and give it a big spring clean. Maybe it is the sunlight highlighting my cobwebs or shining through the windows that now look grubby, I don't know, but I do know that I have an urge to clean it all up and make changes.

Of course, I don't have the money to change every room, every year and realistically it would be wasteful to make too many changes, too often, but it is nice to give a room a fresh look, without spending too much.  I tend to update one room a year, so that the redecoration doesn't all come at once.

This year it is the turn of Miss M, she has a modest sized bedroom and her tastes have very much changed from when it was first decorated five years ago. We bought her some functional furniture at the end of last year but now it is time for those extra accessories, the touches that make a room personal and yours.

Miss M's favourite colourway at the moment is grey and pink, so we have gone for soft grey on the walls and grey bedding to keep the room light and then accents of pink and rose gold to give colour and make the room feel girly, yet grown up, She has been collecting some small items for a while now, ready for her make over - rose gold wire baskets, plants in pretty pots, white twinkle lights and some beautiful stationary to display on her desk.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Reasons to be Cheerful: Work, Gym and Gorgeous Views

Isn't the Wisteria gorgeous? My home looks so fab right now

Happy Thursday friends. It is time for a cheery post and to focus on what has made me grateful this week. I'm not hosting Reasons to be Cheerful this month, it is over with Becky at Lakes Single Mum but it's still important to stay in the good habit of being grateful each week, so I am aiming to continue sharing weekly, until the linky is back with me in June.

Back to the Gym - It was hard to go over Easter with the kids being off, but I've enjoyed being back this week and have been in the gym and swam a couple of times.

Some ace opportunities - I've had some great paid blogging work come up the last few weeks and it makes such a difference to be paid well to research and write content.

A spot of shopping - I had to take JJ to Cadets last night and this means I hang around Hastings for a couple of hours, normally I go to McDonalds with my laptop and work, but last night I went to Sainsburys and came back with a couple of skirts, a top and a cardie. Now to see if they go with the rest of my wardrobe!

Family meal out - We had a 50% off voucher for Harvester so we all enjoyed a meal there earlier in the week. It was great as the kids weren't bickering and the food was excellent. I do like being able to fill up on salad.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

The History of Harry Potter

{Collaborative post}
You’d need to have been living in a remote cave, devoid of Internet and any contact with the outside world for at least 12 years not to be aware of Harry Potter. The huge impact it's had on our cultural landscape is fascinating, and the brand has numerous exciting spin-offs, such as films, live theatre productions and even a tour of the studios where the films were made. But how did everything fall into place? That really IS a magical tale…
The inspiration behind the stories
JK Rowling says she first stumbled upon the idea for Harry Potter when she was stuck on a delayed train, leaving Manchester for London King’s Cross. This was back in 1990, which feels like a lifetime ago – and for many fans, it actually is.
Drawing inspiration from a number of sources, including classical texts, folklore and contemporary children’s literature, Rowling spent five years note-making and idea compiling before she started reaching out to literary agents. That’s no easy feat with a new baby daughter in tow.
Rowling finished the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, while she was training to be a teacher. But she shelved those plans when Bloomsbury accepted the story for publication in 1997. The rest, as they say, is history.

Monday, 29 April 2019

Spending Time with my Girl at Arlington Bluebell Walk, East Sussex

Tween girl in bluebell woods

A couple of years ago we visited Arlington bluebell walk as it a family. It was mid-May and the bluebell season was coming to an end but we loved our visit and I've been meaning to go back ever since. This year I was ahead of the game and we visited on 20th April just as the bluebells were really coming into their own, but there was still evidence of the beautiful white wood anemones. So it made for some interesting pictures with both the white and blue flowers.

Bluebells and wood anemones

This year the bluebell walk and farm trail is open from 11th April to 19th May (10am - 5pm each day). I'd definitely recommend a visit, and it is so much more than just pretty woods with lots of bluebells.  You can choose from five walks of differing lengths, and each has a unique view and some pass through local working farms so you may see horses, cows, sheep and chickens. The walks are really varied with lake views, fields, rivers, woodland and farms.

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Reasons to be Cheerful - Bluebells, Dog Walking and Easter

What is it with procrastination? Why do I do it? It's not very often thankfully, but here I am at just gone midnight and I am so tired and I haven't written my R2BC post as yet and it is due to go live in 7 hours! I know you'd say leave it, do it tomorrow but I have a feeling if I left it, it would be the afternoon before I even got round to it!

It's been an eventful week, good in the main but also with an incident that I can't really go into, but could prove to cause some issues, so I have to see how that pans out. There has been lots of good in the week, so here are some snippets of what has made me super grateful this week -

1.   Getting to spend one on one time with Miss M when we went for a bluebell walk together last weekend.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Review: Premier Inn, County Hall, South Bank, London

Entrance to the Premier Inn, County Hall
Image Credit: Premier Inn
We love Premier Inn
I’ve been a Premier Inn fan for a very long time. We stay in their hotels at least four or five times a year, Sometimes many more. I really like the fact that I know exactly what I’m getting with a Premier Inn and they can sleep four to a room, which is good. Of course as a mum of three it would be perfect if they slept five of us in one room, but alas we’re still to find an affordable hotel that can do that. If all five of us are travelling together, I’ll book for two rooms and I find that as long as I’m booking around 3-6 months in advance I can get a great price - anywhere between about £24.50 - £39.50 per room.

Of course I haven’t actually found the London County Hall Premier Inn that cheap, as it is situated right on the South Bank by the London Eye, Shreks Adventure and the Sealife Aquarium. It’s also just a few minutes walk from Waterloo and Charing Cross mainline stations and Embankment and Westminster tube stops. I stayed at this hotel for two Friday nights in March, I paid £59 for one of the nights and £69 for the other.

It was only two of us staying on both occasions, but the price would have been the same if it was four, and the bedrooms I had were a really generous size with two king size beds. So as twins, they feel really luxurious, as space is normally limited in London hotels, unless you are staying in a decent five star, I’ve found in the past. It appears that most of the bedrooms have a view onto the rear street, rather than onto the Thames, but the last time I stayed I had a side view, it was very nice to be able to glimpse the London Eye right from my bedroom.

View of the South Bank from Premier Inn
Side view of the Thames from my room

6 Signs Your Marriage May Need Help

Photo by Ben Rosett on Unsplash
{Collaborative post}

Although it's devastating to admit, sometimes a marriage doesn't always last. A divorce is one of the hardest things you may have to go through but for the sake of you and your family, it's important that you do what you feel is the right thing. If you're sitting there wondering if your marriage is coming to an end and you're just not sure, here are six things to look out for -

1.  You No Longer Have Anything in Common
If you now find that you no longer have anything in common and your personalities have changed since you first fell in love, it may be that you're no longer a perfect match like you used to be. Whilst having the same hobbies and interests isn't essential in a marriage, for some it can be the glue that holds them together. The best thing to do is sit down and discuss how you move forward from here. Have a think about how you can compromise and get involved in each other’s interests.

2.  You Feel as Though You Can Do No Right
 Another common reason for a lot of marriages coming to an end is that either one or both of you feel as though you can do no right. Sometimes a marriage can get to a point where neither of you is making the other happy and no matter what you do, you feel as though everything you're doing is making it worse. Whilst this is a horrible stage to get to, it's important you've recognising it. For a guide to identifying if something is fundamentally wrong in your marriage, you can visit this site here.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

More Quickfire Reasons to be Cheerful #R2BC

Due to popular demand Reasons to be Cheerful is changing to be a Saturday linky. Well, let's be honest there are only a handful of us who join in nowadays so we can do what we like and suit ourselves, and it turns out the weekend is better for most people.

Continuing on from last week. I'm sticking with my super long list of things that are making me cheery. Counting the small blessings really does make a difference -
  1. We all had an amazing week at Spring Harvest and I can't wait to go back again next year, in fact I saw a p/t job vacancy local to my home with the company who put on the event, so if I'm really lucky I might even be working the event next year!
  2. JJ had a fab time with my parents and they seemed to enjoy having him too
  3. I'm so pleased we had a week at home after the holiday to have some fun together
  4. I have loved being back in my big bed with super comfy duvet and pillow, you can't underestimate great sleep
  5. The new washing machine has done a fabulous job and I'm all up to date with the washing, drying and ironing
  6. I'm reading a great book at the moment, about making your dreams come true and I've been able to grab time each day to read a bit
  7. Miss M has been doing an Easter raffle this week to raise money for our local hospice, she is always really kind and community minded with things like this
  8. The cat had definitely missed us, so we've been enjoying some cuddles and even got his yearly jab done at the vets
  9. We love the McDonalds Monopoly game and I've covered my NOW TV subscriptions for the year in ins!
  10. On the same note, we enjoyed a free McDonalds breakfast with wins from their Monopoly game before the vets
  11. The kids uniforms are all washed and ready for back to school on Tuesday. The girls also have new shoes (which cost far too much money)
  12. I went back to Slimming World after a couple of weeks off and yes, I'd put on 2.5lb but I'm feeling fully motivated and have been good ever since
  13. I'm loving not having any of the kids evening clubs, I've been able to stay in, watch some good TV, read and get work done
  14. The girls had an ace time at Knockhatch, taking part in a Meerkat experience, enjoying waffles, experiencing the death drop slides, playing crazy golf and so much more
  15. I'm enjoying having home cooked meals again with plenty of vegetables and salad
  16. We went to visit my aunt and had a nice few hours with her and she sent me home with gorgeous white roses
  17. Great Good Friday service at the church in my garden (yes literally, it is a few hundred yards behind my house)
  18. The ironing is all done...... for now!

Come and Join In!

I'd love to read your Reasons to be Cheerful and it is as easy as 1, 2, 3 to join in -

1. Link up a post about something that is making you super happy/ grateful. It can be in this style or it can be anything you like - a recipe, a tutorial, a from the heart, a list - it's your blog, you choose

2. Add the #R2BC badge onto your post or blog so that people can easily find the linky and join in too if they fancy

3.  Share the love. This is the really important bit. Please don't just link and run, comment on at least a couple of posts and why not share with #R2BC too?

I'll stop by all linked up posts to comment and I'll share on twitter too

R2BC at Mummy from the Heart

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Review: The Royal Mint Experience, Cardiff

Outside the Royal Mint Experience

Miss E has been avidly collecting 50p and £2 coins for nearly a year now. This is the kind of collection that I am right behind, as basically I see it as a great way to save money. Where other kids might collect rubbers, Beanie Boo teddies or football cards, Miss E’s collection isn’t really costing her anything, as all the time the coins remain legal tender, they are still worth the same.

For her the excitement is finding the coins and getting others to look out for them too. Of course you can buy coins to complete your collection but she isn’t interested in doing that as it is about the thrill of the hunt. Due to her collection she has developed an interest in coins in general and as we were heading to Minehead for our yearly Spring Harvest holiday I said to my hubby we could, perhaps, do a little detour on the way to stop off at the Royal Mint experience, just outside of Cardiff.

Coin covered Grommit

Royal Mint Experience
Newport Premier Inn was only £24.50 for the four of us for a Sunday night, so you can’t go wrong with that and it’s only about 15 miles away from Bristol, were we normally break our journey and stay. This was around a 30 minute journey along the M4 down past the outskirts of Cardiff and stopping at Llantrisant, Pontyclun for the Royal Mint Experience. It was an easy drive and there is plenty of free parking at the venue.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

An Attitude of Gratitude #R2BC

Minehead Prom

Good morning and happy Thursday friends. This post was put together in a hurry as I'm away at Butlins in Minehead on holiday and I had totally lost track of what day it is! I'd got all organised and had the skeleton post ready but its a bit hard to schedule what you're feeling thankful for, when the days haven't even happened yet.

So what am I feeling thankful for? Gosh I can hardly even come up with the answer to that, as I'm in a bit of a negative mind frame right now and that is why #R2BC is so perfect, as it is making me think about what is good in life. So I'm going for a quickfire, as many reasons as I can think of kind of post, to remind me that life is good!

  1. Our journeys down to Somerset have all been good, we haven't ended up in any nasty traffic and that really is a massive reason to be cheerful
  2. We stayed two nights at Premier Inns and had yummy full breakfasts at both. One night was pretty bad as it was so hot but they have refunded me the money, which is good
  3. We visited the Royal Mint Experience in Cardiff on Monday and as Miss E is a coin collector, she was super happy
  4. I'm away on holiday at Spring Harvest (the big Christian holiday we go on each year) with dh and my girls
  5. My lovely parents are looking after JJ and he tells me he is having a good time
  6. The girls have stopped bickering as they are super happy to be here, enjoying the youth sessions, funfair, arcade and swimming pool
  7. Dh seems really carefree and happy, it's so nice to see him like this
  8. I'm sat all alone right now, enjoying some peace watching a repeat of this mornings bible teaching
  9. I had a fabulous breakfast muffin this morning, and they gave me a free coffee to go with it
  10. There were a couple of small issues with our room and Butlins got them sorted quickly and even reimbursed me for the food their fridge spoilt
  11. I got Miss M a fab top when we were in Minehead, it was £2.49, you can't go wrong with that!
  12. Dh and I went to a Gospel choir performance last night and it was excellent, we were up singing and dancing away
  13. I'm looking forward to worshipping with around 3000 other Christians tonight 
  14. I've got an extra duvet to keep me warm and snug tonight
  15. Although the sun has come out and we have a blue sky now! yay
  16. We have another three days here before we head home
  17. Even then, there is still a week before the kids go back to school
  18. and, and, and, I am so pleased. I have a new washing machine. Mine broke about 6 weeks ago and I've been waiting (patiently) and it got replaced under warranty last Friday, so this means when I get home from holiday I can get all the washing done easily.

Saturday, 6 April 2019

‘Hunt the Double Yolker’ in limited-edition packs of HARIBO Starmix to Win a Holiday

This post has been commissioned by HARIBO

Have you heard about the new limited edition packs of HARIBO Starmix that are out in time for Easter?

They have hidden 20 hand-crafted double yolker sweets in with the traditional Starmix shapes of heart, cola bottle, egg, ring and bear, so make sure you check any eggs before they get eaten!

Anyone lucky enough to find one of those double yolker sweets will win a fabulous family holiday with Forest Holidays. ‘Hunt the Double Yolker’ runs until 21st April 2019 and shoppers have until 31st May 2019 to claim their prize, so get hunting!

Friday, 5 April 2019

Review & Giveaway | Gorgeous Faux Fur Beanbag from Beanbag Bazaar

As the kids get bigger it feels as if my sofas are shrinking. There was a time when all five us of could happily sit on the one 3 seater sofa and watch a movie. Now we struggle to accommodate just four of us (the teen mostly likes to disappear to his bedroom, when his sisters are about) on two sofas.

We don't have the biggest lounge and we're quite restricted on where our TV can go due to a large fireplace, door and double aspect windows, so there is no easy solution by buying a complementary chair.

Thankfully the answer has come in the form of am ICON large faux fur beanbag; big enough and comfy enough to seat even the biggest adult. The beanbag is 70cm height, 84cm width and 84cm depth. The super soft faux fur feels gorgeous to the touch and I think it looks very luxurious. The outer fur fabric is a modacrylic, acrylic, polyester mix and the base is 100% polyester. Of course it meets all the relevant fire safety standards.

The inner is filled with EPS polystyrene balls and I was pleased to see that by opening the outer zip, you're not going to send balls everywhere, there is an inner zip too before you access them and this is fabulous child proofing. Talking of kids, due to the nature or the faux fur fabric it does warn there can be some shedding, but we've had it a week now and been using it every day and I've not seen any evidence of that.

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Feeling Cheery for the Future #R2BC

Hello friends. Happy Thursday. How is it possibly April already?  I had a bit of a shock when I realised today I was hosting #R2BC for this month.  I think we say it every year but it does feel as if time is whizzing by!

I've titled this post feeling cheery for the future, as I'm focusing on what will come to pass and I'm feeling very happy about it. I had an amazing walk with this wonderful lady who I chat to about everything and anything last week, and I poured my heart out, tears and all. It was very freeing and cathartic. We meet again this Friday, which will be a great follow up too. She is an amazing coach and challenges my thinking.

Then on Saturday last week I attended the Premier Woman to Woman conference with my friend Annie and it was fabulous. We had four amazing speakers and a great worship leader and I came away feeling inspired to change, to grow and to be who God created me to be.

I've been reading a book recently called Dream Culture and it has been about unlocking all the dreams that reside within me, it's been a great step forward. I realised I had stopped dreaming and was just sitting waiting to see how God wants to use me. I now realise He has already planted the passion in me for what I'm supposed to do and I just have to unlock it, equip myself and be brave enough to walk into it.

One of the speakers (Terri Savelle Foy) at the conference spoke on fulfilling your dreams too and that felt very pertinent. I've just purchased her book "Make Your Dreams Bigger Than Your Memories: Don't Let Your Past Keep You From Your Future" and I'm looking forward to taking that on holiday with me Sunday.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Review: Toby Carvery, Not Just for Sundays!

Everyone in my family is a big fan of Toby Carvery. I visited my first one with my husband when we were just 21 years old, so that's 24 years ago and we've been going regularly ever since. We love their format and truly think they are the best carvery chain out there. You get served the meat but the potatoes, yorkshire puds, vegetables, stuffing, crackling, gravy and condiments are all help yourself and that makes them perfect for a family who have a big apetitite and love their veg!

Our local Toby Carvery is in Eastbourne and we probably go there at least once a month. A short while back it was refurbished and today was our third visit since it has re-opened. I have to say that I feel as if they have really upped their game along with the new decor. We've always had pleasant staff serving us there but it's as if they all have an extra smile and are enjoying their job more since the place has had a makeover, and their sunny personalities are matching the new smart interior.

As well as the hearty meal, another reason we regularly visit Toby Carvery is because you can often get great discount vouchers to be used on weekdays. Take today for instance, I'm using a 50% off main courses voucher and often I can find 33% or 40% off. Sign up to the Toby Carvery mailing list (or download the app) and you'll be sent great deals.

My dinner (the meat is hiding under the veggies) and bottomless soft drink

Sunday is of course the most popular day for people to traditionally enjoy a roast dinner and for this reason we always avoid Sundays, as we like the restaurant to be a bit quieter when we go there. My recommendation would be to go early evening on a weekday, around 5.30/6pm or late afternoon on a Saturday, around 3/4pm as you'll then find the restaurant quieter but thankfully, we never have any problem with dry meat or old vegetables like you might in some restaurants for the non-peak times.

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Deliciously Light Wines from Black Tower (Slimming World Friendly)

{This post has been commissioned by Black Tower}

As a woman in my 40's I rarely drink alcohol nowadays. I don't like to feel out of control, I live in the middle of nowhere and it means I can't drive, I'd rather eat the calories than drink them and I want to wake feeling fresh and ready to take on the day, rather than headachy and sluggish.

I do miss it sometimes though; when I go round a friends for a BBQ and they are all drinking lovely long coolers or a glass of wine, I sometimes pine for the days of old, before children when I could drink and not worry about the effect it has on me. For this reason, I was very excited to learn that Black Tower have launched a new range called Deliciously Light. It has the same great taste as the full alcohol versions but there is only 29 calories per 125ml glass and it only had 0.5% ABV, so it's a winner.

You see that big glass I'm holding in the picture above that was 125ml of Black Tower Deliciously Light white wine mixed with soda water, so that's just 29 calories, or for me as someone who is currently doing Slimming World, it is 1.5 syns. How great is that?

The new Deliciously Light range offers red, white, rosé and sparkling varietals, so something to suit every taste, and of course for someone like me who is following the Slimming World plan at the moment, they are very welcome low calorie drinks.

The range is available from Ocado and costs between £3.50 - £4.00 per bottle, so they are super affordable too.

Black Tower holds many fond memories for me as it is one of the first wines that I discovered I really liked. I can remember being in my late teens and always ordering a bottle of Black Tower when we had a meal out. French wine was all the rage back then, but I always preferred German and the Black Tower Reisling was my favourite of the time.  After the meal I'd always take the iconic black bottle home and place a candle in it; we had loads of those in our student home for a number of years.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Jobs that are Ideal for Stay-at-Home Mums

Image Credit
{Collaborative Post}

There are many jobs that stay-at-home mums can do, but sometimes it is easy to forget that many of the skills we have can be useful to other people. We’ve been so wrapped up in caring for our children for many years that we’ve forgotten we are capable of much more.  It can be great for stay-at-home mums to be able to run a business that fits in with caring for the family, and there are many opportunities for us to do this. Here’s a few ideas -

Being good with a needle and thread is a skill that many women envy. If you are good at making or altering clothes there will always be a demand for your services. You can do the jobs while the children are at school or in bed and the only thing you may have to watch is that you do not take on more work than you can cope with alongside your family duties. It only takes a few friends to pass the word around, and you will wonder where all the sewing suddenly appears from.

Pilates Instructor
Pilates is more popular than it has ever been and the number of people who want to attend classes is increasing all the time. More people wanting to take part means more instructors are needed and with classes held while the kids are in school, this could be a great way to earn some extra cash.

If you want to become a Pilates instructor you will need to get a level 2 fitness qualification. This may seem like a barrier initially, but it is worth the time and money investment as you can then work at the local gym or set up private classes of your own.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

All Pregnant Women Deserve Good Care #DifferentPathChallenge

When you're pregnant and expecting a baby, the one thing that every woman wants is for that baby to be born healthy, in a safe envirnoment.  We all share in this basic right, every woman being the same. Where you live shouldn't be a factor as to whether that child lives or dies, or in fact, whether you live or die.

In Togo, West Africa, 1 in every 20 babies (1) will die before their first birthday. This is the equivalent of you going to your local toddler group and knowing that one or two of those babies won't be here in the next year. Just think how shocking that would be, thankfully in the UK, it isn't every week we hear of a baby dying.

In the UK our figures are quite different, with only 1 in 250 babies (1) not surviving their first birthday. So what's the difference, why are those babies in Togo not surviving? The quick answer is poverty, most families can not afford to access good healthcare or buy enough food. This means birth complications, infections and malnutrition are responsible for claiming far too many little lives.

I don't want to linger on these sad facts for too long though, as us being sad doesn't actually help anyone. What does help, is us using what we have to donate to programmes that make a difference to these mothers. Compassion (a charity I have been supporting on a monthly basis for around 15 years) has 1520 Child Survival projects worldwide, with 52 of these being in Togo.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Girls Time in London - Remembering to be Thankful! #R2BC

Despite the promise of strong winds, rain and pretty horrible weather all round, as well as a landslide closing my regular train line and thus having to take a much longer route, I headed up to London last Friday to meet my Mum.

It's become a tradition that we meet just before Mothers Day and enjoy some time just the two of us. We were booked in to the Premier Inn at County Hall on the South Bank and had plans to go to the Shard on Saturday morning but the rest of the time was free of plans.

We love to see a show together, so were hoping for a musical but due to my train problems I didn't arrive into London until much later than normal. I hadn't managed to bag any deals in advance even though I'd played the theatre lotteries and tried to get rush tickets via TodayTix and I figured we were a bit late for the Leicester Square half price ticket office so I went for tickets for a play instead. I'd read rave reviews for The Curious Incident but sadly it didn't turn out to be a play we enjoyed. It was certainly clever and an excellent insight to what it must be like to live with Aspergers but we ended up leaving half way through.

This one hic-cup didn't spoil our time though, here's some of the things I was super grateful for -

*  Finishing up series 2 of Designated Survivor on the train. I love that you can download Netflix programmes,

*  Great bedroom at the Premier Inn, County Hall. The position is amazing, you get two king size beds in a twin room and we even got a free breakfast as we were woken by noisy door slamming by the staff.

Monday, 18 March 2019

Five Great Places to Visit in North Norfolk With Tweens/ Teens

Cromer beach header
Cromer Beach

For the last two August's we've headed over to North Norfolk for a break for a few days. It wasn't an area we'd explored before but straight from the off we were hooked. The gorgeous coastline spans miles and there are so many quaint traditional seaside towns to explore. Of course, if you're looking for the bright lights and glamour of a big city then this area isn't going to be for you, but if you like the countryside right by the coast then it could be perfect.

During our stays, we had some great days out and they don't have to break the bank, so they're a winner on all fronts. Let me share -

Father and daughter on a boat

1.  Visit the Seals at Blakeney Point by Boat
We travelled with Beans Boat Trips but there are a few companies who do the trips and from what I saw they were all much of a likeness. You park at Morston Quay National Trust site to catch your boat and the trip takes between 60 - 90 minutes, depending on the time of year. Either before or after your boat trip you can walk the nature reserve at Morston Quay, which is maintained by the National Trust too.

The cost of the boat trip is £12 per adult and £6 per child, and you'll also need to pay £4.50 for a days parking at Morston Quay. You could easily spend a half-day in the area if you like to walk, explore, fly a kite, bird spot or pond dip.

Beans boat trips

2.  Play the Penny Machines in Hunstanton
My kids love the penny arcades and I have to admit, it does transport me back to being a child. That moment when your parent hands over a couple of quid or a bag of 2p's and you see how long you can make them last.

Nowadays when you do the 2p penny push machines you can win prizes and my husband is the worst culprit for heading home with a bag full of tiny tat! Quite often JJ and I will disappear for a coffee, whilst the other three continue to play, long after our interest has wilted. In Hunstanton the penny arcades are next to the Sea Life Centre so we headed in there for a Costa and then we all took a nice walk around the little town and enjoyed seeing the multi-coloured Hunstanton Cliffs.

3.  Eat fish and chips in Wells-next-the-Sea
Wells-next-the-Sea is well known as a destination  for excellent fish and chips. French's seems to be the restaurant that most people rate and the queues can take hours, but I'm told the food is outstanding. Each time we've been we've chosen to eat in Plattens, which is also on the quay front but never has quite the same extent of queues. We've found the food to be superb, service very good and we always manage to get a table inside too.

Whilst you're in Wells there are good ice cream shops and the Albatros boat restaurant that serves good Dutch pancakes for dessert too. There's also a fabulous play park, super walkways and a sandy beach all easily accessible too.

Family at Blickling Hall

4.  Spend a Day at the National Trust Blickling Estate
This estate is immense, it even has its own pub in the grounds. We've been to dozens of NT sites but this one still remains one of our firm favourites. There are 950 acres of gardens and woodlands to explore and the multi-use tracks are suitable for bikes, scooters, pushchairs and the like.

The house is in excellent condition, with loads of rooms open for you to explore, we all very much enjoyed taking photos there, with the kitchens and servants quarters being a real highlight.

As with most NT sites there are lots of events going on, especially trails for the children and the chance to get outside and complete many of the activities on the things to do before you're 11 3/4 initiative. A family ticket is currently £37.00, but considering you can easily spend the whole day here exploring, I think that's good value and of course if you're NT members then it is already taken care of.

mother and twin tween daughters

5.  Picnic on the Beach at Sherringham
We liked Sherringham, as we were able to find free street parking, there was a fabulous play park above the promenade, the beach is super sandy when the tide is out and there were lots of good cafes, delis and take-aways.

We went in the Town Deli and bought ourselves some pasties, sandwiches, cakes and pop and enjoyed a nice picnic on the beach. The kids were able run around, play in the sand and jump the waves and even in August, it wasn't too busy at all.

There is also the North Norfolk steam railway in Sherringham, which we didn't visit but if you have a train fan, it has a great reputation and is surely worth checking out.

Sherringham beach
Sherringham Beach

Other Places to Visit
There are so many other places to visit that either my kids are too old for or we just haven't found the time yet. In the future we have plans to visit Pensthorpe Natural Park, Holkham Hall and Amazona Zoo.

Sarah at Boo, Roo and Tigger Too shares five places she likes t visit and I think these are all great for families with younger children too.

Why not pin this post for later?

north norfolk places to visit pin

I'm linking this post up with Louise for CountryKids.

Country Kids linky

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Visiting The Llama Park, Forest Row, Sussex

Tween feeding a llama

A couple of weeks ago my husband and I took our twin girls over to The Llama Park, it's about an hours journey from us, but it is a pretty easy one. We had a pleasant few hours there, taking a walk, feeding the animals and enjoying a snack.

The regular price for a family of 2 adults and 2 children is £25 and I think this is a bit steep for what there is. We got a deal on Wowcher, which was £6 for an adult and a child, so we paid £12 entry for the four of us and that felt about the right price.

2 llamas

What Animals are There?
At the park there are llamas, alpacas, sheep, horses, goats, donkeys, pigs, a reindeer and many different types of ducks, geese etc. All the animals are in fairly close proximity and you could easily cover them all in half an hour, if you didn't linger. If you do want to be there longer you can utilise the woodland walks and explore more of the 33 acre site.

We all really enjoyed feeding the animals and you can buy a small bag of feed for £1. We ended up spending £5 on the food, so you need to build that into the cost for the day. I was impressed that there was a couple of hand washing stations with soap and disposable towels to ensure that you don't pick anything up from the animals. Although that shouldn't happen anyway as we saw signs telling us the animals were regularly tested and they all looked happy and well kept.

animals at The Llama Park