Wednesday 31 July 2019

Sharing my Experience of Switching my Bank Current Account

Photo by Nick Pampoukidis on Unsplash

After 35 years with HSBC (formally Midland Bank) my husband and I have just switched our current account, in fact all our accounts, to another provider. I have to admit that it was pretty daunting, we’ve been with them a very long time and know how they work. The easiest thing would have been to remain with HSBC for another 35 years, but to be frank we didn’t feel they were valuing us and with a sudden change in interest rates for our savings and a naff interaction with one of their personal bankers in the branch we felt it was time to take our business elsewhere.

I suspect there are many people in the same situation as us, wondering if there is something better out there but avoiding thinking about it, as moving a current account feels pretty big and scary. Who wants to set up all those standing orders, direct debits, and transfer details again?

Great news, you don’t have to. Banks and building societies in the UK make it very easy for you to switch your current account. You might have switched one of your utilities in recent years using a switch service and it is almost as easy as that! Take a look on the Current Account Switch website and see if your current bank or building society is signed up to the guarantee and thus making it easy. At a glance it looked like it was all the big high street ones I know.

Our move was from HSBC to Nationwide and this gave us and a friend a £100 welcome bonus each as they recommended us. It also means we are now part of the Nationwide Building Society and we get members rights, such as preferential savings rates. Another factor for us is that the Nationwide is the only bank or building society that still has a branch in our local town. All the others are closing theirs and moving away from personal service, but I can still bank a cheque or get an appointment when I need one and Nationwide have made a commitment to keep their high street branches open.

I'm not here to sell Nationwide to you though this isn't a sponsored post, I just thought it would be good to share my experience and reassure others how easy this process can be. Remember that you have to switch your account to one with the same holders name and a joint account cannot become a single one, and vice versa.

Sunday 28 July 2019

So much Fun at Dreamland, Margate (Review)

Dreamland event area
Central Event Area/Food Court

Earlier this week we had a few days away as a family in Kent. We had a wonderful time and the weather was amazing. On Wednesday we headed to the seaside resort of Margate to visit Dreamland, an amusement park that I hadn't visited for around thirty years.

I have to admit, that with exception of the entrance, I didn't recognise any of it. My memory of Bembon Brothers (as it was called then) was of the massive Looping Star roller coaster, that I was too scared to go on (I looked after the bags) and the Mary Rose ride that my Mum went on and vowed 'never again'! I was astounded to hear that Dreamland will turn 100 on 3rd July 2020 and at the moment they are running a public FB group to find the best 100 memories and photos to share. Check it out and join if you have memories of years gone by to share. 

I think the reason I didn't recognise the park is that it looks so much better now than my memories of it. It was very stark, with lots of metal and concrete back then, but now it is bright, fresh, clean and full of greenery.  I'll say from the offset that we had a great visit to Dreamland and Miss E said that if she lived locally she'd definitely get annual membership so she could go every week. She really is our daredevil child!

Dreamland drop ride
Miss E on the Dreamland Drop

Tuesday 23 July 2019

Loving our Trespass Event Shelter (Review)

Trespass event shelter at sunset
{As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, any affiliate links will be marked with #ad)

For the last six years, we've lived in the most amazing place. We have 220 acres available to us, much of which was designed by Capability Brown. People come here to take walks and admire the beauty; we have three lakes, a couple of forests, a prayer garden, formal lawns, an Orangery and a walled kitchen garden.

Life really is rich here, beyond any dream we ever had of anywhere we expected to live. But there is one downside - we don't have any private outside space. We can't hang our washing out, nor hideaway when the day gets too much. The girls play out in the courtyard and in the main that is fine but there are guests coming through, volunteers heading to their houses and the neighbour's kids playing as well.

For a long time we've just wanted the option to sit out as a family and enjoy time, just as us. Or for the girls to be able to play a game together without always having to have younger children involved. Well the answer has arrived and I am so pleased to have purchased a Trespass event shelter from Argos, for the price of £129.99 (and £3.95 if you wish for it to be delivered to your home).

Inside the Trespass event shelter

Saturday 20 July 2019

Happy, Happy Birthday Girls!

Morning friends, for my benefit and yours, I'm bringing you a Reasons to be Cheerful post, so we can both get a dose of much needed positivity.

End of Term
As I type this I am just waiting for the kids to all arrive home from school, they have a half day and it's the end of term. I am so pleased that school is over for practically seven weeks. They really need this break and I really need at least one or two mornings a week when I don't have to get up at the crack of dawn and be on form!

Off to Whitstable
We have lots of fun things going on over the summer, starting with a few days break in Whitstable next week. We will be heading to Dreamland, Margate and also the Dockyard, Chatham, as well as lots of other fun times that are not yet planned. It's good for me to go with the flow. Of course going away does mean I need to have a good clean this weekend, as one of our volunteers is coming to stay to look after the cat.

Happy 12th Birthday Girls
This week the girls turned 12 and they had an enjoyable birthday. They were thoroughly spoilt and are now proud owners of a new phone each and then Saturday we are off to Brighton for them to have a good shop with the money they received. JJ will be pleased to avoid the shopping and he will be at Lewes Police Headquarters for the day joining in with some training with cadets.

Family Fun Afternoon
Last weekend there was a family fun afternoon at church and it was a nice, chilled event. We enjoyed time with friends, a BBQ and some fun games.

Prize for my JJ
I went to school this week to watch JJ receive a prize for mathematics. It is a subject he really enjoys and is naturally gifted in and I feel very proud of that, as it is not one I ever did well in at school. We then enjoyed a pizza together whilst the girls were at a youth BBQ.

He also came home with his prefects tie and badge this week, ready for year 11 duties. I can't believe he'll be taking his GCSE's next May, time goes far too fast!

Summer Ball
I better head off as I have a couple of jobs to do before I take the girls to their summer ball at youth club tonight. They'll be eating, dancing, playing and having a powder paint fight and I'll be serving the food and washing up, something isn't fair there! lol

Enjoying time Outdoors
Anyone who has been reading my blog for a while will know we live in the most amazing place, but the one downside is that we don't have any outside private space. This has been becoming harder and harder for me, as I love to be out in the fresh air, but despite however nice my neighbours kids are, I just want to be alone. So I got an event shelter, one with removable sides and I've been so enjoying just having some private space outdoors.

I hope you have a great week ahead.

Becky over at Lakes Single Mum is out host for the month of July.  Head over and check out more cheery reads.

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 on what helped them make this transition and to settle into 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.