Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Advice from my 11 year old Twins about Starting Secondary School

Back to school flat lay
Photo by Matt Ragland on Unsplash

This time last year I had two very excited 10 year old's living with me. They couldn't wait (on the one hand) for their school year to finish and to be a step closer to starting at secondary school. But of course they were also a little sad about losing contact with the friends who were going to go to different schools.

If you've got a child about to start secondary school this coming September you'll probably relate to what I've said and will know this is a time of change, worries and uncertainty, as well as great excitement.

I asked my girls to share their experience and give me some tips of what helped them make this transition and to settle in to their new school. So here are tips from my tweens to yours, hand the laptop over now -

Before you Start

*  If your school has an option to attend some summer classes to meet other new pupils and find out how the school works, make sure you take the opportunity to attend as you'll be ahead of many others on your first formal day and will feel much more confident.

*  Make sure you get the right uniform. You might want something different to what they state but it won't be worth the defaults or maybe detentions that you could end up with.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Passing on a Love of Photography

Since I was young I have enjoyed taking photos and making albums full of memories. At University I had photo collages on my wall, I'd make them as gifts for others and then once I got my first digital camera back in 2001 I took all the wedding photos for my friend of her marriage in Cyprus. It was such a delight choosing the best photos from the hundreds I had taken and presenting her with an amazing keepsake album as my wedding gift to her.

Looking back, I didn't really have any skill and I never had a very good camera to use. It was only once my blogging became more professional and I started to attend conferences that I knew I had to up my game. So in June 2013 after the BritMums conference I headed to a big department store I trust and asked for some advice, they sent me packing with my very first Panasonic Lumix (Professional) Mirrorless Camera.

Mirroless cameras were still fairly new on the mass market back then and many people had no idea why I had gone for one of them rather than a classic DSLR camera, but I just loved the smaller and lighter weight camera body. I still had the capacity for changeable lenses and full user adjustability but I didn't have to carry a heavy or cumbersome camera. My Panasonic Lumix DMC G5 is still serving me well six years later.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

9 Top Tips for Visiting Windsor Castle, Berkshire

External Windsor Castle view

Last week my Mum and I visited Windsor Castle, this is the second time I have visited and I thought I'd share some tips for visiting this super busy tourist attraction. Windsor Castle is a very grand example of one of the Queens official residences in the UK, and from what I understand she chooses to spend many of her private weekends there. So if you're then on a weekend check if the flag is flying! You never know, you might glimpse her riding her horse one morning if the weather is fine.

Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, having been founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, it has since been the home of 39 monarchs and thus has a very good pedigree! It's also still used for many state occasions and ceremonies, so when you visit it does feel very special, as if you could have been at the wedding of Harry and Megan! lol

Windsor Castle garden view

When visiting somewhere like Windsor castle that has international appeal for Royal fans, it is best to be organised and plan your day in advance. Here are my top tips -

1.  Book your tickets in advance
We skipped a 40 minute queue when we visited last week, as we had our tickets and could join the short queue (6 people) at the booking office. The queue went right back to the end of the street by the Queen Victoria statue (this was at 11.30am). Make sure to check the website for any changes to opening hours and days, as they can change due to royal requirements, and you don't want to be disappointed on the day.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Reasons to be Cheerful: End of Term, the Sun and Time with Mum

Joining in with Becky for Reasons to be Cheerful.  It's been another good week so I need to celebrate and make sure I record all the things making me feel grateful.

The End of Term
We still have a couple of weeks left but it is definitely on wind-down. The end of term exams have finished, the kids all seem to be without homework, JJ's had a couple of good taster days at college, ready to make a decision of where he wants to attend in the Autumn and the girls have a trip to a zoo Monday. JJ is also starting work experience for a week very soon.

Time with my Mum
It's my Mum's birthday and so I took a couple of days to go and stay with her and my Dad. We had a lovely time, eating good food, seeing Rocketman, visiting Windsor Castle and having afternoon tea as we sailed on the Thames. I also got two days free of cooking, cleaning up and washing.  Wish me luck when I get home Saturday, we'll see what the house looks like!

I love this photo as it is part of a series when mum was larking around and laughing so much!

The Sunshine!
Yes, I am a tad pale and I do get burnt easily. It's also not the easiest in the heat when you are my size, but I really can't moan as it has been just lovely. In fact I'm sat in my parents garden with the laptop writing this now. I've enjoyed Pimms on the bench outside my house, read my book out, supervised the girls at the lake, chatted to neighbours and tomorrow we have an event shelter (gazebo type thing) arriving so I can get some shade outside!

That's it, back to basics, a classic Reasons to be Cheerful 1, 2, 3.....  post!  Just like in the good old days when this linky first started.

I'm linking up with Becky at Lakes Single Mum as she is the host for this month.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Hooray for Summer - 2019 Bucket List

I'm very excited that summer has finally arrived. There are only three weeks until the kids break up from school and then all the real fun can begin!

As I was thinking about summer I thought it might be fun to do a bucket list, I think its been a few years since I last did one. I'm working in my new job two days a week this summer, so I'll have to be creative how I fit in all the fun that I want to have, as there will still be my freelance work to do as well. Luckily the girls have various church camps that they'll get involved with over 3 or 4 weeks of the summer, so they won't have time to be bored.

Here's a few things I really want to do over the summer holiday -

Planning The Perfect Family Holiday To Singapore

Image Source
{This is a collaborative post}

You probably haven’t considered Singapore as a family holiday destination because Southeast Asia is usually associated with backpacking and hostels. But Singapore is actually a great destination that is ideal for families. It gives you the opportunity to experience a culture that is so completely different from what you would find in most typical family destinations which is important because travel is a great educational experience for your kids. The city state of Singapore, just off the coast of Malaysia, is incredibly safe and it’s a fairly simple place to get around, even though it’s a bit of a culture shock. It has a very multicultural population and you’ll find a great mix of traditions and cultures from around Asia so it’s the ideal introduction to the region if you have never been there before. It’s also very tourist friendly and the locals are very welcoming and helpful to visitors. 

If you’re looking for something a bit different for your next family holiday, Singapore is a great choice. Here are a few tips to help you plan the perfect trip. 

When To Visit 
One of the best things about Singapore is that there isn’t really a bad time to visit. Obviously, you want to go when the weather is nice which isn’t a problem in Singapore because it’s nice all year round. It has consistently warm weather all year with an average temperature of around 27 degrees, but it can feel a lot hotter than that when it’s particularly humid. Rain is always a possibility so you can’t really avoid it but if you spend a week out there, it’s likely that it will be warm most of the time. 

When it comes to the prices of hotels and flights etc. the prices are pretty much the same for most of the year. Singapore is a hub for international business so people are visiting all year round and the prices shouldn’t change too much. However, there are a few exceptions to that rule. November through to January will be a little more expensive because of the Chinese New Year and June and July are often popular because there are some other festivals going on. But even then, the prices won’t change drastically so you can plan your trip whenever is most convenient for you. 

Friday, 28 June 2019

The Importance of Gratitude #R2BC

I'm really pleased to be sat here writing a Reasons to be Cheerful post. Without being conscious that I was, this week I have been counting every blessing and have been reminded of the importance of gratitude. When I first started #R2BC back in 2011 it was because I needed to look at the good in my life and to reset to be content and grateful for what I had. It really worked for me and I truly believe that the two main keys to contentment are being happy with what you have and not seeking more and more, as well as being grateful.

So here we go with this weeks dose of positivity. The things I am feeling super grateful for right now are -
  1. Blue skies and sunny days
  2. The air conditioning in my car
  3. That my house stays cool, even in crazy hot weather as we have 1ft thick walls!
  4. A fun festival in the grounds of where I live last Sunday
  5. JJ being made a Prefect for year 11 and getting an end of year award for maths
  6. Getting myself two gorgeous dresses from Maine at Debenhams today, they should have been £75 and I got them for £40. Bargain!
  7. I had a great chat with dh this morning, whilst we had a coffee after both having our hair cut
  8. We're trying out a new church on Sunday morning
  9. I'm still enjoying my work and if I go in early, even after a 45 minute drive I can still be home by 5pm
  10. Taking the girls swimming in the lake with lots of other people from our community after work
  11. The roses here are beautiful at he moment
  12. The most yummy piece of carrot cake
  13. Loads of new international volunteers where I live, and the wonderful interaction my girls are having with them
  14. Miss M has performed at school in the choir five times this week for the new year 7 intake evenings

How To Spend 5 Days In NYC

Photo Credit: Clay Banks at Unsplash
{This is a collaborative post}

As you may know, travelling can be great for the soul. But not only that, it can be great for your family dynamic too. Because when you travel together, you get to spend some valuable time together too. And not only that, but you get to make great memories too. This is why it’s great to go to new and adventurous places together, like New York City.

It’s easy to think that NYC isn’t the place for a family trip, but it certainly can be. There’s a lot going on in the city for families and kids can get just as excited over the magic of the big apple as you do! We definitely want to head there as a family in the not too distant future, Im just savign up at the moment.

Here’s how to spend five glorious days there -

Day One: Check In & Explore
Your first day can be a bit slow after a long flight; you just want to get settled in. No matter what time you arrive, make sure that you check into your hotel and try to adjust to the new time zone right away. Time is precious, so sticking with NY time is crucial. You’ll find that heading out to explore helps here.

Day Two: Sightseeing
When you wake up on day two, you may feel a little jet lagged, but you’ll also want to ensure that you’re able to make the most of the day. So push through and plan a day’s sight-seeing! There are lots of different family-friendly attractions in NYC that you can explore, along with the most notable. So think about the things that will make your time here as memorable as possible. Talk to friends who have visited before and check out family blogs for great ideas.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

A Girl's First Love Stays with Her Forever #PethoodStories

Teen girl and her labrador
Me, aged 15 with Toby Jack
{This is a collaborative post}

Every woman remembers their first love. I could say it was my Dad, but I think that's a given. No, my first love arrived into my life when I was 14-years-old and he was gorgeous. The most handsome boy I'd ever seen, this glossy and silky gingery-blond hair, a massive smile and he was content to just be with me. Hardly any demands, just unconditional love. A love that lasted for thirteen years.

We went through some interesting times together, Toby and I. Times when I deserted him for other boys, times when I was too busy to spend as much time with him as he deserved, and times when I slept late in the morning and forgot to get up and walk him (thankfully mum didn't)! But he always forgave me. He was always happy to offer me cuddles and a gorgeous shoulder to cry into when I needed it.

I can't tell you the amount of times that I cried to Toby, he just listened, he never made me feel bad and he never answered back. Of course, that's because he was a dog, a Labrador, but not just any ordinary dog as far as I am concerned. He, for me, is the best dog that ever lived and I don't think any other dog will ever take that place of my first love, of my bestest friend.

I look back at old photos now and I chuckle to myself, he was so placid and my brother and I used to never let up, always looking to have fun with him. Just look at the photos below to see for yourself.

Saturday, 22 June 2019

An abundance of Gratitude - Family, Walks and Time to Be

This was the beautiful sight that greeted us as we arrived back from a meal with
our pastoral group on Thursday night

Hello friends, so sorry I didn't get an #R2BC post live last Saturday.  Time totally ran away with me and as I had my parents staying I figured it was more important to spend time with them, than fret over a blog post. I know you understand.

As always I have so much to be grateful for -

Family to Stay
As I mentioned my parents came to stay at the cottage we have onsite here and this meant hubby and I got a night out to see the new X men film at the cinema, as well as going to a bible study and new church on our own. It's so great when they are beloved babysitters available.

JJ was happy to spend a night looking after their dog whilst they went to the cinema and the girls stayed up there and it feels like a mini holiday. We didn't do anything major whilst they were here as some days the weather was rubbish, but it is just good to spend time with them, chatting going out for meals and charity shop browsing for Mum and I.

We had a yummy lunch at Tottingworth Farm cafe in Heathfield
My new Job
I'm still loving my new job, I've done three weeks now, but realistically that is just 6 days. In my head I want to know everything now and be able to get on with it, but I know my expectations are too high! I'm enjoying getting out, doing something different, challenging my mind and having some time to myself in the car each way.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

National Trust: East Riddlesden Hall, Keighley, Yorkshire

Front of East Riddleden Hall

In half term we travelled up to Yorkshire to stay near Bradford, We had a lovely time travelling around and exploring the area. We had one day where we just didn't fancy a long journey so we stayed close by and headed to the nearest National Trust site for a bit of culture and outdoor space. East Riddlesden Hall was the closest, situated in Keighley, West Yorkshire. We wasn't sure what to expect as this isn't the biggest site, but actually it was really nice. The staff were friendly, interested and knowledgeable and there was plenty to do.

As soon as we arrived the kids spotted the bird feed for 50p a bag, so we all headed out to the lake and all my family enjoyed feeding the ducks. This simple act always seem to calm down my crazy girls and focus them on something nurturing. Even JJ loves to feed them, although he is always a little more vigorous in his feeding style! lol  I was happy to find some hale bales to sit on and just enjoy the dry weather and watch my family.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Starting my New Job wearing Hotter Sol Sandals (Review & Giveaway)

I started my new job last week and I had a great time. It was so nice to feel part of a team again and to be doing something that is feeding into a goal that I believe in. As well as that, it was great to be able to dress a bit smarter again, and with it being summer I needed some sandals to complete my outfits.

As if by perfect timing I won a pair of Hotter Sol sandals and I knew these would be good for work as I still have a pair from two years ago. Back in April 2017 I went shopping at my local Hotter shop in Eastbourne and came away with metallic gold Sol sandals and they are still going strong now. Yes they have discoloured inside (that will be my sweaty feet!) but the actual shoe itself has hardly aged in two years.

I had a look on the Hotter site to see what the latest colours are for the Sol sandals and I had a choice of platinum multi-coloured, truffle multi and jet black multi in standard and wide fit. Or blood orange, royal blue multi or white in standard fit. I absolutely adored the orange pair but I saw that my old ones were the wide fit, so I ordered the orange in standard fit and the jet black multi in wide, both in a size 7.

Monday, 10 June 2019

Give Blood: Do Something Amazing

I gave blood recently, it was my 26th donation and you know what?  I'm pretty darn proud of that. I love giving blood, it only takes about an hour and I know that I help someone, without any cost to myself.

Each time you give blood you get a text to tell you where your blood has gone, so this time around I'm helping someone at the Cheltenham General Hospital. In January my blood went to St Bartholomew's, London and last September it was Salisbury Hospital. I pray it made a difference.

As humans and for me as a Christian, we're supposed to be there for each other and to do what we can to help. We may not have an abundance of money that we can give away, but I have had the gift for time the last few years, and this is one of the ways I have made the best of that time.

I made my first blood donation in about 1997; a friend where I was working was going to give blood and she convinced me to go with her. No-one I knew gave blood and to be frank I wondered why it was my issue. I recall being quite worried, but it all went seamlessly and in fact I give blood very quickly and without any consequence to me. I've never felt ill after donating and to be honest, what I tend to feel is elated.

So I continued to give blood but as my career took off and I worked more hours it became more patchy as I was never around when the donation sessions were taking place. It was only once I'd had the children that I started to have some time again to be able to donate and it's only in the last three or four years that I've become a regular thrice a year donor (women can donate every 16 weeks).

Last year I wrote a post, titled a Beginners Guide to Giving Blood in the UK, why not take a look if you have not donated yet.  There are a few things you need to think through and of course you need to check you are fit and well, and can donate.

The Blood.co.uk website is very informative and easy to use. You need to register before you can donate and you can book your sessions online, so that you don't have to wait long. I've found my sessions to be super efficient since they introduced the online booking system quite a number of years back.

Each day roughly 5,000 people give blood but there still isn't enough blood all of the time, for everyone who needs it. There needs to be around another 400 new blood donors every day to ensure that all needs can be met. This is why it is important that YOU consider giving blood. You might just be that person who has a rare blood group, who can help someone with sickle cell or who provides the O negative blood that has fallen in short supply.

You can make a difference. You can do something amazing. So why not investigate today and start your blood donation journey?

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Reasons to be Cheerful - Great First Week!

Loving this photo from our visit last week to NT East Riddlesden Hall. I think Miss M looks
like a winner up there and I feel like a winner at the moment!

It's the weekend, Yay!  We've not got anything planned and I'm quite happy with that. My parents arrive on Monday for a week, so I'm sure next week will be a busy one with plenty going on.

This week I started my new job with Spring Harvest and it has been great. Here are a few reasons why I'm feeling cheery about my new job -
  • Not only is my job share partner very nice, she also seems efficient and capable. Things that are super important to me!
  • I'm part of a great team, really diverse and I think we'll have fun.
  • I'll be helping to organise the big Christian Spring Harvest breaks that I've been going to for the last 14 years, I feel very privileged to be a part of the organisation now, and the work seems interesting. 
  • Each week we have prayers and it was good to join with everyone to pray for both work and personal situations.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Weddings And Technology: A Match Made In Heaven

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash
{This is a collaborative post}

Technology has an uncanny ability to transform our lives in ways that we never expected. Who would have thought that we'd all be glued to small, handheld computer screens checking status updates twenty years ago?

But the world of tech isn't just affecting our work and social lives; it's also having an outsized impact on weddings too. The modern wedding just wouldn't be complete without the use of tech.
Technologies make the whole process so much easier. Here's why weddings and tech are a match made in heaven.

Say Goodbye To Paper Cuts
Preparing wedding invitations used to be an unbelievably drawn out process. You had not only to find somebody to print out all the cards, but you also had to deliver them by hand to the post office, and pay a small fortune for the privilege.

Now, though, there's an app for that. All of a sudden the vast machinery of the postal service is redundant: with a simple click of a button, you can import your contact list, filter the people invited to your wedding and click "send." Then all that's left to do is wait for the RSVP - no more dealing with lost replies in the post.

Stop Searching For Wedding Entertainment
Finding a great entertainer was a challenge in the past. Most couples relied on local ads or the recommendations of their friends. But today, it's easier than ever. This awesome website, for instance, categorises entertainment options by type, including for weddings. These platforms let you browse your options, read reviews, and then pay for the band you want online. It's about as easy as using Airbnb.

Monday, 3 June 2019

The Highs and Lows of my Pregnancies

This post is in conjunction with Rennie® but all thoughts are my own and I remain honest.

Rennie Peppermint for heartburn and indigestion. Rennie Liquid Heartburn Relief Oral Suspension. Rennie Heartburn, Indigestion & Wind Relief Chewable Tablets. Always read the label. Medicines can affect the unborn baby. Always talk to your pharmacist or doctor before taking any medicine in pregnancy. This medicine is not intended for children under the age of 12 years of age.

(#Ad - This post has been commissioned by Rennie®)

This summer my girls turn twelve and that means it is twelve years since I was last pregnant, I can’t quite believe that if I am honest, it feels like it was only a couple of years back; the memories are so vivid. Despite not having the easiest pregnancies or best birth experiences either time, I absolutely loved being pregnant as I felt so special. Growing a small human is an absolute privilege that not everyone gets to enjoy.

I so clearly remember being at work in 2003 and this veil of tiredness fell over me as I sat at my desk. I immediately went out to buy a pregnancy test and recall sitting in the loo silently screaming and thumping the air with elation when the two little lines appeared! My pregnancy with JJ was a good one generally, I was a model student, attending all the classes, reading all the literature, chatting to other pregnant women and mothers, and I think I knew nearly as much as the midwives.

Then for some silly reason a few days before JJ was due to arrive, I got impatient and I decided to see if I could help him along a little by cleaning the garage top to bottom. Straight after I had my routine midwife appointment and found that I had pre-eclampsia; high blood pressure, protein in my urine and terrible oedema (water retention) on my legs. I was sent straight up to the hospital to spend the night on the antenatal ward so they could get my blood pressure under control.

As I’d had such a good pregnancy and done all the things I was supposed to do, I truly believed that I’d have this idyllic water birth. We’d been encouraged in our classes to write a birth plan and mine was full of ideas of soothing music, easing the pain in the warm water and my husband by my side. The reality was quite different; I forced to have an induction as I had pre-eclampsia, that then failing and my baby getting distressed, so I was whizzed through for a C section, but the spinal blocks and epidural didn’t work so I ended up with a crash section under general anaesthetic.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Northern Reasons to be Cheerful #R2BC

We headed off up north this week, and that's a very rare occurrence for us. I was pondering if the kids have ever been up north and we realised they had once, back in 2011. We stayed in a holiday village near Hull and didn't really enjoy ourselves, so it's probably a good thing I had forgotten that before I booked this break.

This time we stayed in an Air BnB and I'd happily recommend Squirrel Court, which is close to Thornton village, Bronte Country. We were around 20 minutes outside the centre of Bradford, but it felt like it was a lifetime away, as we were in the countryside, with amazing hill views, a farm shop at the end of the lane and tons of local pubs.

*  We've enjoyed lots of family time, doing all sorts, from just chilling in the wonderful cottage to heading into major cities.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Review: Yorkshire Wildlife Park, A Fabulous Family Day Out

Yorkshire wildlife park header

Earlier this week we visited the Yorkshire Wildlife Park, near Doncaster, and we had an amazing day out. It's probably my favourite walk through animal park that we have visited, as it is relatively flat, super easy to get to, the large animals all appeared to have fabulous large enclosures and they have worked very hard to ensure that you are able to see the animals, without encroaching on their space.

We planned a break in Yorkshire so we could visit the park as Miss E has been polar bear crazy for some years now and this is one of only two places in the UK where you can view them. The weather was fine, but overcast on the bank holiday Monday that we visited and this seemed to be conducive to the animals being happy to have a walk around and be visible for all the visitors.

Sleeping polar bear
Nobby, the shy polar bear

Friday, 24 May 2019

How my Meg & Bee Handbag Helped me to be Bold Again

Middle aged woman with bright bag

As a larger lady, shopping isn't always fun for me. I know many of the BBW (big beautiful women) or the body confidence, plus-size community would tell me there are loads of fabulous clothes out there, in far beyond my size. I should embrace who I am and how I look, and just shop to suit me and no-one else.

And I do. I shop for me but the reality is that I don't like being a size 22/24. I'm not healthy at this size. I need to lose weight and this will happen, but right now I'm a bit stagnant in that quest. I don't like my shape and for me, it doesn't feel flattering in clothes. I have a truly enormous stomach, like a great big air balloon on my front.

I'm not writing this for you to tell me I am OK as I am, or that I look good. I know I look presentable and sometimes I feel beautiful, but a lot of the time I just feel uncomfortable and like I'd like to slice my enormous belly off the front of me. Not in an unhealthy kind of way, just in a wishful... I'd look so much better and everyday tasks would be a lot easier kind of way.

I like to be comfortable and that is more important to me than being trendy or stylish, so I go for clothes in the same kind of cut and I like longer tops that cover most of my belly. I often fall back on black or navy, despite the fact that I love reds, pinks, bright blues and greens, as they are safe colours. Ones I don't have to stand out in.

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.