Wednesday 27 November 2019

Getting Serious about Weight Loss - Starting My Slim and Save Journey

{Post in collaboration with Slim & Save, I received gifted products. 
This post may also contain affiliate links - as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, any affiliate links will be marked with #ad}

My Journey so Far

Regular readers will know I have been very overweight for a long, long time. It really is the bane of my life but much of the time I seem powerless to do anything about it. I know that sounds a bit pathetic but we all have our demons to conquer and overeating is mine.

I went on my first diet when I was about 14 (if my memory serves me well). It was my doctor who put me on it and thinking back, I'm sure I was only about a size 10/12, so it seems outrageous to me now, that he thought it was OK to confirm my worries about my size and ask me to keep a food diary and then just half everything I ate. 

Over the years I have tried many, many diets. I tend to go for the more mainstream and less extreme diets in general. I know the general principle of eat less and move more, but truly I do love food and as much as anything, I know I am an emotional eater and I love the comfort of food, and that's not healthy for me.

I'm now at the heaviest I have ever been, I am classed as morbidly obese and I can feel myself falling apart. I have around six different health/ pain issues that I am convinced would all benefit from me being between 2 - 8 stone lighter. So, no longer can I ignore my issues, I have to take steps to make a difference. 

Monday 25 November 2019

Bannishing my Aging Dry Skin with Balneum #ItchLessLiveMore

Balneum products in wash bag
{This is a collaborative post}

As I age, I am realising more and more that I should have been looking after my skin better when I was younger. My skin is often tight, dry and itchy now, especially on my lower legs, upper arms and chest area. Of course, at the moment it is Autumn and we're at the best time of year for my skin as it isn't too warm and it isn't too cold, but already as the colder weather arrives, I am being reminded of the need to moisturise regularly.

Luckily Balneum got in touch a couple of months back and asked me to try out their dry skin and itch relief lotion, which I was happy to agree to. I was then over the moon when it wasn't just the lotion that arrived, but their cream, oleo wash and shampoo too. I have been using all the products for the last few weeks to give them a thorough trial, to see how they work on ageing skin and I also got my 16-year-old son to try them too as he has pretty bad psoriasis, and we are keen to minimise his need for steroid creams as much as we can.

Who are Balneum?
Balneum have created a specially formulated emollient and daily cleansing range for people with dry skin and for when itch relief is required. When used together the products become a complete emollient therapy for the skin and scalp that are dry, flaky, agitated or suffering with eczema or psoriasis. So, me with my dry skin and itchy and flaky scalp, and JJ with his all-over psoriasis are good candidates for putting these products through their paces.

Their slogan is Itch less, live more and that's great, as we're in an age now were no-one should have to be that uncomfortable with their skin that it starts to negatively impact on their life and activity choices.

Thursday 21 November 2019

Christmas Gift Guide for Teen Girls - 10 Great Ideas

Teen girl gift guide header

{This post contains samples given to me for review and also affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, any affiliate links will be marked with #ad}

Teen girls can be tricky to buy for; I have two of them and they really are chalk and cheese, so it is clear to me that no one solution suits all of them. The thing that they do have in common is that they are like magpies and are attracted to pretty, shiny things in beautiful wrapping. 

My girls still badger me to do them a stocking each and apparently it is the best part of the Christmas presents but I am finding it gets more and more expensive as they get older, so you have to become creative and make sure your stocking is a realistic size!

e.l.f Make-up sets - From £6
My girls are going to be thrilled to receive these elf cosmetics (#ad) sets. The prices are so reasonable with the pack of three lip balms and 3 eyeshadow duos both selling for just £6 each at Boots, and the Haute chocolate eyes shadow set is £12. Extra good is that they are all included in the Boots 3 for 2 gifting deal. The colours look really pigmented and totally on-trend. 

Personalised Notebook from Norma and Dorothy - £22
This is a really stunning notebook (#ad) that Miss E will love using as her artist's sketchpad as the pages are blank. It has a nice hardcover and is spiral-bound, so it is easy to use and firm to lean on. The personalisation is in real gold foil and makes the book unique and special. There are loads of gorgeous personalised gifts on Norma & Dorothy and they all come beautifully packaged.

Monday 18 November 2019

Who Knows what Tomorrow Holds - Planning for the Future

Family in the woods
Photo by Irina Murza on Unsplash

{This is a Collaborative post}

Once you become a parent your whole perspective changes, or certainly mine did. Every new thing looks as if it holds danger and you worry constantly for your children. But worry isn't productive, so it is important to actually take some firm steps to ensure that your children are well looked after, safe, happy and financially secure if the worst should happen to you and your partner.

Here are a few ideas to get you started -

1.  Make sure you have a Will in place
2018 research from Which showed that 54% of adults in the UK do not have a will, this is an astounding figure. I daren't imagine what would happen if my husband and I both died and our estate had to be sorted out and there was no will. I want the kids and their guardians to easily have money available to them to start sorting out their plans and living arrangements for the future.

We chose to make mirror wills as our wishes were the same and it feels a cost-effective way of doing things. Other couples prefer to make separate wills and allow provision for the things they care most about. For us, it was the kids we cared most about and thus mirror wills worked perfectly. For the sake of drawing up a document that took us under an hour and cost less than £150, it would be crazy to die intestate and leave our children and their guardians with those kinds of problems.

Also, importantly, don't forget to tell your next of kin and executor where your will is kept!

Saturday 16 November 2019

Reasons to be Cheerful: Being a Freelancer, Flowers and Cheesecake

Hello friends, how are you today? I am feeling chipper as it is the first Saturday in forever that it hasn't rained! yay

It's been a really good week and I need to celebrate that with a Reasons to be Cheerful post. It's just going to be short and sweet, but sometimes they are the best ones -

I finished work, but I may still work for them....
You may have read that I wasn't loving the job I started 5.5 months ago. It's weird as I'd been yearning to get back into the work place for over five years and I absolutely love the company I had gone to work for. I even really liked the people I worked with, but due to the yearly cycle of the work it meant there would be a number of quieter months every year and that just isn't for me. I've been described as a machine before! I love to churn work out and get that sense of satisfaction.  Also the journey turned out to pretty awful some days, taking 90 minutes.
However it looks as if I'll be doing some freelance work still as they don't want to recruit to my job now. So I can work from home! yay

Realising how others see you
In the week I was leaving there was a couple of telling conversations that were really lovely to hear and ponder on. First a couple of colleagues were having a chat about 'get up and go' as in it means just that - to leave, but also it describes someone with energy, enthusiasm and initiative. Then one of my colleagues, said it was like me.

Also, the day I left they gave me some truly beautiful flowers and another colleague that they were bright and vibrant, like me.

Should you study A Level Law, if you want to take a Law Degree?

Photo by Giammarco Boscaro on Unsplash

{Collaborative Post}

I can hardly believe I have a 16-year-old son; time really does pass very quickly. We’ve just done the rounds of the local colleges for him to choose where he wants to go on to next and I realise we are very lucky as he made a decision quickly and feels sure of the courses he wants to do.

JJ has always been academic and the STEM subjects come easily to him, so it was no surprise when he put his application in for Maths, Further Maths, Computer Science and Law. We’re not sure if he’ll be taking three or four A levels as yet, this will be decided at his college interview in December.

I was keen for him to do four. I think it was just so I could be a proud mum, with a really bright son. However, when we did some investigating, it turns out that all the uni’s only look for results in three subjects, and they’d far rather the applicant had three seriously good results than four OK ones. We then noticed that where Further Maths is taken the college normally advocate a fourth subject, so we’ll just see what the college says and take their advice, they have done this many more times than us.

Wednesday 13 November 2019

Christmas Gifts for All the Family to Enjoy Together

Christmas Gift guide for all family header
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

{This post contains samples given to me for review and also affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchase, any affiliate links will be marked with #ad}

It won't be long now friends! We have to get on board and admit that Christmas is fast approaching, I won't tell you that I am completely organised as yet but I am well on the way and the piles of presents hidden around my house are adding up!

As my children get older I find it is harder and harder to buy physical presents for them, often they want experiences, money, clothes or tech and that's OK, they are growing up so I have to respect their wishes. However, I miss the days when they were little and we would be able to enjoy their presents together, building LEGO, playing a board game or doing some craft.

Then a couple of weeks ago it occurred to me, why do things have to change? Last year I bought Risk and we all enjoyed paying it together, so this year doesn't need to be any different, I am going to invest in some gifts we can all enjoy together and then I get my favourite Christmas gift - all my family together.

Here are a few ideas for gifts all the family can enjoy together (if you have older kids like me) -

For the Home

ASDA personalised photo cushion - £26
My first idea was to make a generic one to go on the sofa, but then I knew that my Miss E would really love one with all her favourite cuddlies on it, so here it is with her Alfie teddy, my parents dog Archie and our cat Puss Puss. This will stay in the lounge and we can all enjoy it as it is big enough for two to share. I went for the XL cushion, which is 25" x 14.5" and retails at £26.00 with £4 postage (there is also a smaller size available too).

The cushion is really good quality, it is soft suede, plain beige on the back and printed on the front. There are loads of templates you can choose from for printing, to make it totally unique to your home and I found the process simple, and the delivery quick. I'll happily use ASDA photo again for personalised gifts and I see there is 10% of all personalised cushions until the end of this year too, which is a great deal!

Fun Family Christmas Traditions: Decorating the Christmas Tree

2018 Pannell family Christmas tree
{Collaborative post}

For me, Christmas just doesn’t feel like Christmas unless our home is decorated in the right way. Tinsel, mistletoe, baubles and fairy lights: all add to the ambience that makes the season. The centrepiece for all of these decorations, naturally, is formed by the tree. But decorating a tree isn’t just a destination; it’s a journey, too. If you want to get the whole family into the Christmas spirit, then drafting them all in to lend a hand is a great way to get started!

For many years when the kids were small, we used to have two trees, as I loved to have a 'perfect' colour coordinated one in the lounge that I had decorated and then we would have a second one in the dining or playroom. This one was super colourful, sling everything on, including homemade decorations tree. As the kids have aged though, I have realised that for me, it is far more important to have everyone involved with the ritual of decorating the tree than it is, for it to look perfect.

Let’s look at a few ways in which we can make the tree-decorating experience special for everyone -

Wearing Christmas Clothes

Any activity will feel that little bit more Christmassy if you’re wearing the right clothes. If you’re gifting Christmas jumpers, then you can save opening them until the big day itself. But there’s nothing stopping you from wearing last year’s jumpers. On the other hand, you might make the experience a little bit cosier by wearing your winter sleepwear. Matching pyjamas or onesies will make the whole family feel like the same cohesive unit!

Friday 8 November 2019

What are you seeking?

As a woman in my twenties, it never occurred to me to analyse my life. To really look at aspects of it and see if I was happy with them, or if they were healthy. For me, becoming a Christian at 29 was what had set me on an introspective journey to find out who I am and what is right for me. I would say what makes me happy, but that doesn’t sit right with me, for I believe my life isn’t lived for my own gratification.

I have a purpose, a greater good that I’m supposed to achieve during my life. It may not be what the world deems as bold, exciting or successful. I don’t have to become famous, make a million, or be stunningly beautiful. Society’s expectations of success don’t really apply, and it is so good to remind myself of that fact. All that is expected of me, is that I try my hardest to follow Christ’s example, to be a good citizen, and to think about other people, as well as myself.

In fact, in the last few days I’ve been realising, yet again, (why do I forget these important messages and then have to learn them again?) that I need to prefer others to myself. That’s not about me having low self-esteem and believing other people are more important than me. Not at all. It is about me remembering that I’m here to serve, in so many ways.

I’ve truly found that when I take my focus off myself and put it onto others, I am a lot more fulfilled. When I keep analysing why I feel lonely, or why I’m so fat, or why my work doesn’t feel fulfilling, all I do is perpetuate those feelings. 

You know what they say, negative in, negative out!

It’s so important to think positive and to seek the good in people. Some may say I’m wearing rose tinted glasses, but that’s not true, as I still know the world is flawed and there are problems in both my life, and the wider world around me. I just need to make the purposeful choice (and no, it’s not always easy) to see the best. A lovely friend reminded me of this the other day, as my thinking the worst of a situation that involved her had resulted in me feeling hurt for the last year and because I hadn’t raised the subject with her, she had no idea, she just thought I was busy, rather than purposely staying away.

Communication really is key to everything in life. Being honest and open with God, those around you and importantly, yourself, makes a massive difference. It won’t always be easy, in fact sometimes it will feel like such hard work, but it will always pay off.

After my post the other day about loneliness and seeking a good local friend, I spent some more time in prayer and contemplation, trying to decide what would make the difference to me right now. What did I come up with? I realised I need to stop thinking about myself and to do more for others. Not silly things like the kids washing or dropping them places, but more purposeful things like spending time with them doing an activity they enjoy, leaving the best parking space for someone else, or volunteering to do the crappy job at work, the one no-one enjoys.

I have far less time now than I used to, as I’m working more, but there is always time to do the little things, and many little things add up to be a big thing. The thing that takes me out of myself and helps me to focus on others and hopefully gives me that sense of purpose and satisfaction that I’m ultimately seeking.

But what about you, what are you seeking?

I'm linking this post up with Becky at Lakes Single Mum for Reasons to be Cheerful.

Thinking of Starting your own Blog? Check out my Top Tips for Success

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

{Collaboratve post}

Have you ever thought about starting your very own blog? It’s hard work…but incredibly rewarding. You might not want your blog to be found and read by others, you might prefer it to be a private online diary, or maybe you have an opinion that you’re desperate to share, or you have some advice that you know others will find helpful. No matter what your motivation for starting a blog is, it’s a wonderful creative outlet that is ideal for personal growth and for building your confidence!

Starting a blog is a great idea, but have you wondered what you might need to make it a success? 

Check out my 4 top tips for blogging success below.

You need the right tools

Of course you’re going to need a laptop and access to the internet but having a good set of writing tools at your disposal will also help you through the blogging process. For example, if you’re referencing someone else’s work or maybe a newspaper article then help with citations and referencing will be a huge help. Scribbr provides apa citation guidelines and advice on their website. Investing in proofreading software, as well as a programme that will help you with spelling, grammar and clarity will also prove useful. It will also help you improve your work.

Find your niche

You don’t always have to have a niche to make your blog enjoyable, however, having one will help you to gather a bit of a following and build on your blog subscribers. If you offer information on a range of different topics then some readers might dip in and out of your work rather than returning week after week for a new insight on one specific topic that interests them. If you have a unique perspective of a particular topic or varying degrees of experiences and advice from it all, then, by all means, go for it! Parenting, minimal lifestyles, health and fitness, eco-living, veganism, sport, travel – all are popular niches. Try to find yours!

HVAC Tips for Pet Owners

Puss Puss the cat adopted us last October
{Collaborative post}

Owning pets, whether it's adorable puppies or kittens, fills your home with so much joy. Unfortunately, it also can fill your house with lots of fur and dander. One aspect of pet ownership, which many owners don't consider, is the effect their pets have on their home's HVAC (Heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system. If you are a pet owner, here's what you should be doing to take care of your HVAC system and keep it operating at its best.

Groom Regularly

Keeping your dog or cat groomed isn't just a great way to keep them clean and looking their best. A well-groomed animal causes less mess around the home. Regular brushing is highly effective at keeping your house from being overrun by fur. It removes the fur into the brush, where it can be easily disposed of. This way, it doesn't get in your heating and cooling ducts and clog up the system.

Vacuum and Sweep

No matter how diligent you are with grooming it's likely that your pets will still shed in your house. By maintaining a consistent vacuuming or sweeping plan you remove the loose fur before it has a chance to get sucked into a vent where it clogs up your HVAC system.

Thursday 7 November 2019

What to Do with Your Family in Kefalonia

Photo by George Hiles on Unsplash

{Collaborative post}

If you’re looking to book a winter sun holiday with your family - or looking into options for the Easter break, or even next year’s summer holiday - then you might have thought about going to Greece. The gorgeous weather and fantastic food are just two reasons that may persuade you to pick this country, but it has so much more to offer.

Kefalonia is one of the many great places to go. It’s the largest of the Ionian Islands in the west of Greece, and offers couples and families many things to do together. Here are some suggestions you may want to think about when booking your Grecian escape -

What to see

If you’re looking for a beach holiday in Greece, then you’ve come to the right place. Not only are there many white sandy spots to sit on, but the beautiful blue sea is a gorgeous, inviting enigma with plenty of surprises within. Myrtos, on the north-west coast of the Kefalonia, is considered to be one of the top 30 beaches in the world.

You don’t have to just sit on the beach, though, because there are many things you can do in the sea, or explore on the coast. If you or your children are interested in animals, then you could go to Argostoli Bay to see the wild loggerhead turtles lay their eggs, or even take a cruise on a glass-bottomed boat. There are many caves, lakes and other water-based activities you can discover as well.

Monday 4 November 2019

A Well-Needed Break - Reasons to be Cheerful #R2BC

I am so thankful that we got to have a few days away last week during half-term. We've been lucky this year with a couple of short breaks to Yorkshire and then Kent, where we stayed in AirBnB's and they were both lovely, but what I have realised is that when we holiday in the UK we don't rest properly. We do things, we go places, I tidy the house etc etc

Last week we headed to Spain for just 4 nights and I wondered what it would be like. Would it feel as if we've only just arrived and then had to leave again?  But no, it was excellent and we all felt thoroughly relaxed by the end of it.

We stayed at the airport the night before and had an early flight, so we were by the pool of our hotel by 10.30am and this gave us an extra full day. The hotel was fab and the rooms were ready by 1pm, so we could get unpacked and back down by the pool in no time at all!

I'd definitely recommend Salou for an October half term break as the temperature was between 21 and 25 degrees each day, and yes I picked up a bit of a tan and needed sun cream! The only downside is that the swimming pools in the hotels are not heated and as such are cold, no scrap that, they are truly freezing!

By the last day both my girls got brave and spent a few hours in the pool, it was lovely to see them having fun with some lovely girls they met.

It was a very low-key holiday, with a bus trip into the neighbouring resort, lots of long walks, coffees out, finding the local cats, games of cards, time spent chatting, reading and enjoying a cheeky Baileys each night.

It was also Salou Independence day whilst we were there and my hubby went to see the night parade with pyrotechnics and the girls and I joined him the next day to see the day parade, with bands, massive puppets, a giant eel and a very scary canon!

I'm thinking this October half-term holiday could become a thing! It was so much cheaper than other times of the year, but next time I would have to find a heated pool!

Top Tips for Regulating Home Humidity

Image Credit: Trent Szmolnik on Unsplash
{This is a collaborative post}

Having high or low humidity levels in your home can cause significant trouble. Not only is living in a home with extreme humidity levels uncomfortable, but excessive moisture or dryness can also cause damage to your property. Here's what you need to know about regulating your home's humidity levels to keep them in a comfortable range.
Know Your Warning Signs
You can't adjust humidity levels in your home if you don't know if your humidity levels are off in the first place. The good news is you don't need any special tools to check for overly humid or dry air. You just need to know what to look for.
If static electricity levels are high or the paint on your walls is cracking, your home is likely too dry. If you're seeing condensation regularly on your windows or drinking glasses, or you're smelling musty odours, you likely have high humidity.
Handle Wet Clothing Well
One of the easiest ways to adjust humidity levels in a low-tech way is to adjust your treatment of wet clothes. Leaving wet or damp towels and clothing out causes natural moisture to enter the air. If your humidity is high and you've been leaving wet clothes in your hamper, simply doing laundry and putting them away clean and dry could solve a high humidity issue.
Perhaps you have the opposite problem: low humidity, or dry air. If that's the issue, after you take your clothes out of the washer, skip the dryer. You'll find you can raise your home's humidity using clean laundry. Lay laundry out on a line or rack to encourage evaporation of moisture into the air.