Thursday, 25 July 2013

Clarks 100 things - writing to a penpal


You might have seen my recent post introducing Clarks new initiative '100 things to do before you are 10'. The first 50 things have been launched for summer and the next 50 will follow in the autumn.

We are busy working our way through some of the suggestions and having great fun as we go.

Our latest venture has been to get JJ to write to a pen pal (number 38 on the list), to be honest this is something we said we would start doing a few years back but it seems to have got forgotten. No better time to make it happen than now!

Back in 2005 my husband and I attended Spring Harvest, a big Christian conference held at Butlins each year and this was when we found out about Compassion, a Christian charity that helps people to sponsor individual children abroad. We knew straight away that we wanted to join in and the £21 per month was pocket change to us and could mean such an amazing amount to a child abroad.


At the time our JJ was just two years old and we said that is was really important for him to understand how fortunate he is and to know about the difficulties children in other countries face. I'm very pleased to say that we still sponsor Carl-Henri, the little boy from Haiti that we made a commitment to 8 years ago and we now also sponsor Priya, an Indian girl that we took on a couple of years back after dh returned from a mission trip to the country.

Carl-Henri is now 14 and we have watched him grow up in photos, the pictures he draws for us and the letters we receive. The children are read these letters and know about our sponsored children as there are photos on display in the house but now it is time for them to take their relationships to the next level. Today I sat JJ down and asked him to write to Carl-Henri to tell him what he has been up to and to be sensitive about what he shares, as Carl-Henri will not have access to all the privileges JJ has.

JJ chose to share that we had been on holiday and he had enjoyed playing in the sea and making sandcastles with his Grandad. He then talked about our move to a Christian centre in the countryside and his new love for football, something he shares with Carl-Henri. We then added a photo of JJ and his sisters having fun on the beach.


JJ tells me he enjoyed writing his letter and he is looking forward to receiving a reply back from Carl-Henri and one day he hopes to meet him - how awesome would that be?

Disclosure: I was provided with Clarks vouchers to take part in this initiative. I have not been told what to write and I remain honest.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Review: Teen Beach Movie Soundtrack on CD



I posted late last week about the new Disney made-for-TV movie Teen Beach Movie, which premiered on Friday evening and I have to admit that my 6 year old twin girls and I all loved it. Sadly we did not have any way to record it or I just know we would have been watching the film again and again.

It was just as I expected - full of cheesy tunes and pretty, shiny clean characters. One of the reasons I like Disney so much is that the films and TV programs they run are wholesome and not full of bad attitude and poor language like so many things aimed at kids nowadays.

We were sent the soundtrack to review and we played this all week prior to the movie being aired. The music makes you feel summery, happy and ready to party on the beach. It reminds me of 1950/60's tunes with a modern twist.

There are 12 songs plus 3 bonus tracks on the CD, they are -

1. Oxygen
2. Surf crazy  (Miss E's favourite)
3. Cruisin' for a bruisin' (Miss M's favourite)
4. Falling for Ya
5. Meant to be  (My favourite)
6. Like me
7. Meant to be (Reprise 1)
8. Can't stop singing
9. Meant to be (Reprise 2)
10. Surf's up
11. Coolest Cats in Town
12. Surf Crazy Finale

Bonus tracks:
13. Cruisin' for a bruisin' (Instrumental Version)
14. Falling for Ya (Instrumental Version)
15. Surf's up (Instrumental Version)

I'll tell you what - clear up time got a whole lot easier when we cranked the tunes up loud and we all sang and partied our way through tidy up time. I have heard the songs coming from the girls bedroom on a number of occasions so far and I caught them with hairbrush in hand this morning introducing one another as the new stars of the show! I just love their make believe and this CD is helping with that - perfect!

Have a listen to a couple of tracks yourself and see what you think -



You can purchase the tunes on iTunes or I see the CD is available on Amazon (with a free download too) for just £9.00.

Disclosure: We received this CD free of charge for the purpose of this review.

BBQ Fail #TheCharcoalChallenge


I've got a bit of a secret to let you into.....  I can't BBQ, I am just rubbish at it.  I want to be good and I'd love to have serene evenings spent outside with my husband and the kids chilling as the meat slowly cooks and the beautiful smells waft over towards me.  This just does not happen. I bought a nice red gas BBQ once and we used it twice and that was it - it just seemed too much fuss and cleaning for the food we got.

Then I heard that MoneySupermarket.com where offering bloggers £50 to take part in the #thecharcoalchallenge and I thought perfect, I can try again - surely even I can manage one of those disposable BBQ's and we can have some yummy smoky burgers to enjoy for the girls birthday tea with their grandparents whilst we were on holiday.

Oh dear, how wrong was I?  We got the BBQ lit and that seemed fine, the instructions advised me to wait 20 minutes for the flames to die down and the charcoal to look covered in ash. All looking good 10 minutes in -


But then the smoke started as the wind had got up and the patio area started to look as if we needed a fire engine to come visit. My Dad could take the smoke no longer and we decided to put the BBQ out and stop trying to annoy the neighbours


So it was under the grill that the burgers went, ideals of smoky flavours out the window.  We did enjoy our birthday tea and then everyone loved the meringue, cream and strawberries after and we finished up with a game of monopoly. At least we got something out of the £50 that will last us for some years yet and give us lots of fun!

 Thanks to moneysupermarket.com for helping us have a fun evening as a family.


Thursday, 18 July 2013

Will you be watching Teen Beach Movie tomorrow?

My twin girls are big fans of the Disney Channel and we can all regularly be found watching programs like Good Luck Charlie, Jessie and Austin and Ally.  It is because of this that they heard about the new original Disney made-for-TV move Teen Beach Movie and the fact that it stars Ross Lynch (Austin from Austin and Ally) means that my girls have not shut up about it.  Now comes the confession.....  I have watched the trailer a few times and I want to see it too.

It previews tomorrow night on the Disney channel at 6pm and I'll be watching.

Take a peek at the trailer -



I'll let you know what it is like but I fully expect to like it, over the last few months my girls and I have had many a movie night and I seem to be developing a liking for the frothy pre-teen movies!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Great family offers this summer at Cineworld

This summer boasts a great line up of films the whole family can enjoy. To celebrate all the great films out this summer, Cineworld is introducing a whole host of Big Family Offers to make the cinema experience even more exciting, from 20% off family tickets booked through mycineworld to prize draws and lots of other giveaways. 

They are also continuing to run the Movies for Juniors £1 screening offers to ensure that families can afford to watch a movie together. We do these lots and have seen a number of great films, just a few months after they first release. £5 on a Saturday for us all is a screening we can afford.

A nationwide survey of over 21,000 film fans* revealed that Despicable Me 2 is the most hotly anticipated family film of 2013 with 34% saying they’re looking forward to seeing Gru and co back in action this summer. Monsters University claim second place in the poll with 29%. Other films to feature in the top 5 include, Jurassic Park 3D 19%The Smurfs 2 8% and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: Revenge of the Leftovers 7%. We went to the Cinema on Saturday and saw Monsters University (I can happily recommend it and my JJ was super excited to see there is a new Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs film - apparently he is going to save up to take me!

This summer’s must-see family films:

Already released: Despicable Me 2
The follow-up to the 2010 original hit, Despicable Me 2 sees Gru’s yellow, goggle-wearing minions return for more mirth and mayhem.

Already released: Monsters University
Much-loved Monsters, Inc duo Mike and Sulley scare up a fun-packed prequel to the Pixar hit.

July 31stThe Smurfs 2
The popular little blue funsters take on the nasty Naughties in this fabulous new adventure.

August 7thPercy Jackson Sea of Monsters
Percy and friends return for another epic, fantasy adventure as they set off to find the Golden Fleece.

August 16th: Planes
From the same garage as Cars comes the hilarious, uplifting tale of a plucky crop duster who must find his inner hero.

Big Family Offers:
·         20% off family tickets for summer films when you book online with mycineworld
·         Win the Ultimate Sony gadget pack when you buy a ticket online for The Smurfs 2
·         Book online for Percy Jackson Sea of Monsters and you will be entered in to a draw to win one of five tech goody bags worth £4K each
·         Win a BA family holiday to Florida when you buy a ticket online for Planes
·         Movies For Juniors from £1, our discounted weekly screenings of kids films at Cineworld Cinemas2
·         Special snack deals, including the Family Special for £9.95 and £3.25 munchbox3
·         Book a ticket online for Monsters University and you will be entered into a prize draw to win a Monsters University bedroom makeover
·         For full details of all these offers and more, check http://www.cineworld.co.uk/bigfamilyoffers

About Big Family Offers
All competitions and prize draws run until 6th September 2013. Terms & Conditions apply.

1 Cineworld surveyed over 21,000 Cineworld Unlimited card holders
2 £1 Movies For Juniors when booked online with mycineworld (£1.50 in cinema). The Movies for Juniors offer runs throughout the year with daily performances during the school holidays
The Family Special snack and munchbox deals run throughout the year


Disclosure: We received complimentary tickets for Monsters University for the family and I thought I'd share this information as I know it is useful. I have been a Cineworld customer for some time and often benefit from the £1 Movies for Juniors deal

Friday, 12 July 2013

Join Spellbound as they take a look around Butlins newest waterpark

Log onto our WebTV show where we’ll be at the opening of the iconic British family holiday resort’s Splash WaterWorld
Show date: 2pm
Show time: Thursday 18th July

Holidays give both children and their parents a chance to relax from the grind of everyday life, and research shows for kids, the best holiday is one in which they can simply spend time with their family and where everyone is happy and relaxed.

As we fondly remember summer days gone, by the sea or local swimming pool with our own parents, those special days are exactly the ones our own children will reflect on in the future, they are some of the best memory builders

But while our children’s lives may appear vastly different to our own childhood, the joy of jumping into a swimming pool will always be the same…

Butlins recognise this and has played a massive part in the history of our nation. While the resorts have come a long way since their beginnings in the 1930s and this summer the quintessentially British holiday company will open its newest waterpark.
Log on to our live interactive WebTV show where Spelbound will take you around the opening of the Butlins Splash Waterworld and have a sneak preview of the nation’s newest and most exciting waterpark.

Spelbound and Nadine Hill from Juggle Mum join us live online at http://www.studiotalk.tv/show/join-spellbound-as-they-take-an-exclusive-look-around-butlins-newest-waterpark on Thursday 18th July at 2pm



Disclosure: I am a Butlins Ambassador but I have not received anything to publish this blog post.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Dreaming of a holiday abroad

Next month is my birthday and it is a big birthday. It is one of those birthdays when people find out they ask you if you are having a birthday party.  'Oh you will be 40, what are you doing to celebrate Michelle?' and everyone seems to expect there will be mass celebrations. It is also my husbands 40th birthday just 10 days later and this doubles the expectation.

From about the age of 25 we made a decision that when we turned 40 we would go to New York and have a real 'knees up' of a holiday, we would blow the budget and have a marvellous time doing all those classic things you are supposed to do in the big apple. I started to pester my parents back in 2011 to ensure they would be happy to look after our kids for a week or so and being the fab people they are, they agreed.

However, it became clear last year that a luxury trip to New York was beyond our means and we changed our expectations and agreed that a cheap holiday abroad, just the two of us anywhere in the sunshine would do us fine. Our plan was to allow the kids to get back to school in September, this means it would be easier for my parents to look after them as they would have the days to themselves to recuperate before the whirlwinds came home each day and we would not have to put up with other peoples kids on our holiday. I can't think of anything worse that putting up with other peoples kids when we are having a break from our own.

Then of course things have changed again in the last couple of months and our family is moving to East Sussex and dh has started a new job.  This means he can't go disappearing off in September for a weeks holiday and frankly we don't really have the money for it now with all the expense of house moving and equipping ourselves down there in our new home.

Our last aboard holiday together, in the Dominican Republic, 2004

I'm a sucker for punishment though, I've been checking out last minute deals and finding some great holidays that I'd just love to go on. I've been sitting their drooling at the idea that Venice, Italy is 30 degrees at the moment. 86 Fahrenheit is a perfect kind of temperature for me, just hot enough that you feel as if you are abroad but not so hot that you melt. I couldn't believe that Turkey is practically 100 degrees at the moment, I'm not sorry to be missing that, although I could just laze in the pool.

We have decided that next year will now be our belated 40th birthday holiday treat together and the up side of that is I have a bit more time to find my motivation and lose some weight!


Thursday, 4 July 2013

Addicted to Nashville - It's so good

When I saw that the box set of season one Nashville was up for review my hand was up like a shot. I have seen this being advertised for TV and some of my American friends have commented how good it is but I had never yet managed to watch an episode on TV. Being a bit of an old fashioned girl I only really remember to watch anything that is on channels 1- 4 and that means I have missed it here on the TV. I now know that missed out would be a more accurate description.

I have fallen in love with Nashville, it is so addictive. And the good news is that I don't think you have to love country music to love this drama. It has a bit of everything, yes the music is really good, there are gorgeous people, there is great acting, there's a love story, there are twists and turns, it brings in all aspects of real life but also it is so far removed from my real life.  Like Dallas back in the 1980's when I would watch in awe at the glamour of the clothes, the ranch and the parties they attended, Nashville shows me a peek of a lifestyle I will never live.

I have not finished the whole season yet, I have 21 episodes to get through and at about 40 minutes each that is quite a few hours watching but I'm about half way through and I've been introduced to some wonderful characters. One of my favourites is Scarlett with the beautiful haunting voice (played by Clare Bowen), as she sings duets with Gunnar (Sam Palladio) you just see the chemistry spark off the screen, even though they are not (yet) a couple.

Image Credit
The lead characters are Rayna James (Connie Britton), the ageing country star who is having a tough time convincing her record label that she still has what it takes. I think Connie's acting is brilliant and she is a really likeable character, her singing is not as great as I might have expected for someone who is supposed to be the leading singer but she is very convincing anyway.

Hayden Panettiere plays Juliette Taylor, the young new starlet who is very successful for her bubble-gum style of country music, but finds it hard to be taken seriously by many of the established country singers like Rayna. Her difficult upbringing seems to have damaged her and made her cynical and bitchy but I'm sure there are more layers to pull back yet.

I have to reveal that I have a bit of a crush on one of the stars, Charles Esten who plays Deacon Claybourne is seriously handsome and such a nice guy. He is Rayna's first love and Juliette has her sights on him but his heart belongs to Rayna, we will have to wait and see what happens.

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I'm not going to give too much away, loads goes on in this season, you'll have to watch for yourself.  What I can tell you is that Nashville is excellent and well worth buying. If you liked Desperate Housewives (like I do) then I think you'll love this too.

Nashville goes on sale in the UK on 15th July 2013, you can pre-order Nashville season one on Amazon now and I see the release price on there is just £21.50 and that s a bargain!