Friday 25 September 2020

Operation Christmas Child - Box Packing Update for 2020

Operation Christmas Child shoebox header

I've now been involved with Operation Christmas Child for around 16 years and I still love it as much as I ever did. JJ has moved on and no longer helps me pack boxes but my twin girls are still keen and we often invite friends around for a box packing party, so a few of us can all do it together. 

Over the years I have been involved in various ways, from packing boxes as a family to organising assemblies at school, services at church, box packing parties (online and in real life), school and church collections, checking boxes before sending and even travelling to Belarus with Samaritans Purse to distribute boxes, be involved in live-streamed box opening and writing up the stories of the children I met. 

Things have been changing over the years and regulations have tightened up, meaning that not everything can be included in your box anymore. Also, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, you might be wondering if you can still create a physical box and the answer is yes. Samaritans Purse are still accepting boxes during the week of 9-16 November 2020. 

I thought it was important to update our box packaging tutorial here on the blog with all the latest 2020 information -

How to pack an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Gift

1)  Get a box - Either take a medium-sized shoebox and wrap the lid and box separately in festive and fun wrapping paper. Or you can use a pre-printed shoebox. available from Samaritans Purse. You can't buy these in packs of any less than 20, so they are good for schools, churches and community groups to buy and give out os sell individually. 

2)   Choose the sex and age - Choose which age group and sex you will make the box for. The choice is boy or girl for ages 2-4, 5-9 or 10-14. You can download and print labels from here for free. Make sure you attach the appropriate one to the top of your box.  

Thursday 24 September 2020

How to Make a Pre-Teen Party a Success

    Photo by Amy Shamblen on Unsplash

{This is a collaborative post}

Planning the perfect party can be a headache for any parent. Kids can be changeable at the best of times, and what they loved last month might not be what they like today. If you want to deliver the kind of amazing experience that your kid deserves, you might need a bit of help.

Planning a party for a preteen can be even more challenging because it’s often difficult for parents and guardians to find the balance between delivering the grown-up teenage experience that kids crave, and still catering to their younger tendencies. So, how do you make sure you impress your pre-teen with your party planning? These tips will help.

1.  Get the Right Gift

The great thing about pre-teens is that even if you mess up the entire party experience, they’re likely to forgive you as long as you get them the right present. The problem with this is that it can be notoriously tricky to figure out what your kids are going to enjoy. To avoid any mistakes, make sure that you keep an eye on your child for gift clues, for a couple of weeks leading up to the big day. You can also check out gift ideas sites like for inspiration relevant to their interests.

Ask for hints on the kind of presents that your child would like – most of the time, they won’t mind helping you out. You can also do some hunting online for some of the most popular items in the industry right now. Preteens generally like to keep up with what’s trending.

2.  Pick the Perfect Food

Another thing that can save just about any preteen party is the right food. Now probably isn’t the time for you to go all-in on your healthy eating strategy and try to get your kids to eat as many veggies as possible. Unless your child is one of the very few that actually likes eating healthy foods, ditch anything green and nutritious and replace it with the items you know your kids love.

Crisps, biscuits, candies, and home-made cakes always go down a treat. It might also be worth mixing up some mocktails for your kids too, to make them feel more grown-up. Placing fancy drinks into cocktail glasses can really class up a party. 

Thursday 17 September 2020

What Next?

Girls going to secondary school

The girls have returned to secondary school and I dropped JJ off for his induction day at college and now I am sat at home, thinking 'what comes next for me?' I know I am in a season of mothering and supporting my husband but I also hope (and pray) that there is something really fulfilling in my future for me to do. I understand the importance of supporting others and being there to facilitate their lives, hopefully helping the kids to grow into decent citizens but I have to be honest, it doesn't give me that immense satisfaction that I get from paid work.

I feel like I'm sharing a dirty secret in having said that, as many homemakers and fellow Christian mums will be finding their satisfaction, contentment or purpose in serving their family, but it just doesn't do it for me. I do really enjoy being home for when I am needed; I like to clean, launder and make the house feel clean and comfortable but I also love the buzz of achievement.

I don't know if it is just the way I am wired or if it is because I didn't become a Christian until I was 28 and the world's view of success is deeply ingrained in me. Whichever, nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing my to-do list get ticked off and knowing I am achieving. It doesn't have to be anything particularly high-level or aspirational, I literally just like to be busy and work my way through a long list most days.

How to chose a Successful Wedding Venue in Covid Times

Photo by Jeremy Wong Weddings on Unsplash

{This is a collaborative post}

We all know this year has been one of the trickiest in recent decades, never before have we had our civil liberties curtailed in quite the same way, without there being widespread war. We're not out the woods yet though, the complete lockdown might be over, but we're seeing local lockdowns across the country and the World Health Organisation are warning us that there will be many differences, such as distancing and wearing face coverings for some time to come yet, maybe even a couple of years.

Having said all that, life can still go on for most of us and we're having to adapt to our new normal. People still wish to get married, celebrate their birthday or hold a wake for a lost loved one and we can do these things, we just have to make sure we are meeting the current Government guidance. 

This week we saw the introduction of the 'Rule of 6' in England and this means that right now social gatherings that you are organising as an individual can only be for 6 people, whether they are indoors or out. The good news is that when you move a wedding celebration or funeral wake to a COVID-secure venue provider, you can increase the number to 30 and there is hope within the event industry that this number will increase in October when new announcements are made by the Government. 

It's important that we still have things to look forward to and as such, I believe you should go ahead and still plan and book your celebrations for 2021, so here are my top tips for doing so -

1.  Think about what You really Want

You might have always imagined you'd have a winter wedding in a stately home with 200 guests but now is the time to really think that through. Could it be that an intimate outside tea party in spring with just 30 guests would suit you just as well and take away most of the stress of planning something so fancy? The great thing about our current situation is it frees you to think about what would really make you happy and to drop any expectations that family or others might have.  If you want your mum to hold the speeches and ceremony, it can be good to invest in Lecterns by Luminati to make the event more special and aesthetic. Whatever it is that you desire, you can still bring it to life through decoration and emotion.

Once you have decided what you want your event to look like, you need to agree your budget, choose the season/ date, set the attendance number and decide on the location. Basically, draw up a blueprint for the event and decide how hands-on you want to be. Do you need a dedicated event planner? Would the venue event organised be enough, or would you prefer to do everything yourself? The choice is yours!

Sunday 13 September 2020

Reasons to be Cheerful - Suiting Myself!

ashburnham place

I have to say that I am really pleased that the girls have gone back to school and JJ has started college, this means I am getting a bit of time alone in my house again. I treasure this time. It's when I do the cleaning, listen to the silence and just suit myself.

Today all three kids were working and then the girls went into the local town with my hubby, this again left me alone to do whatever I wanted to do. So it has been the most lovely day and I feel as if I have achieved loads but it has been simple, no stress activities without having to travel anywhere. 

The only downside of my day was getting up early to ensure the girls got to work for 8am and JJ for 8.30am. I figured because I was already awake I might as well do an exercise DVD and clock up some good steps to start my day well.

It was then time for some yummy scrambled eggs on toast and preparing all the veggies for tonight's roast dinner whilst watching church online. I enjoyed the service and as it was just me in my kitchen I was able to sing to my heart's content.

A quick tidy of the kitchen, put the washing on and do the few bits of ironing I had and then I headed for a leisurely shower and a read of my book whilst I dried off. It really was a very slow-paced and enjoyable day!

I met JJ for lunch and we had ham and cheese paninis in the sun and then a walk around one of the lakes before he had to go back to work and I continued around the other lake and sat for quite some time praying and waiting on God. 

By the time I got back home, it was time to cook the roast dinner and watch a bit of Chicago PD as I did so. We then had a good family dinner together and everyone shared a little of their day. I got the kids to clear up and I read some more of my book.

And here I am now doing a spot of blogging whilst watching Home Alone. It really has been a lovely day, just suiting myself but still looking after my house and family. I'll be heading to bed soon for a little more reading and feeling quite content that I clocked up over 13,500 steps on my leisurely day.

I hope you've had a nice Sunday and been able to find even a little time to suit yourself too.

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