My recent trip to Amsterdam has been part of a longer process I’m going through looking at my blog, my blogging career, our family finances and lots of related things. I’m lucky enough to make money from my blogging. Not enough to pay the mortgage (unfortunately) but enough that it has been making a difference to our lives – whether it being extra money in the bank each month, or review products or events that we could otherwise not afford to do. This difference has come through hard work though. Lots of hard work, and work that doesn’t necessarily always pay a good hourly wage. There are up months and down months. Clients who pay nice and promptly, and clients who don’t pay so well and also have to be chased so much to pay that by the time they do I’m left questioning whether it was worth working with them in the first place or not.

So I’m sat here now at a bit of a crossroads when it comes to blogging. I love my blog and love writing here. I love the experiences that blogging has brought me that I wouldn’t otherwise have had. I love the blogging community that I am now part of and the friends that I’ve made from it.

But, I don’t love being constantly asked to use my brand and business to promote big companies for free. I don’t love having to chase people that have agreed to pay me money for work I have done again and again and again. I don’t love being sent a product worth a couple of quid (without being asked first) and then being hassled lots and lots as to when I will have written a “nice big review” of it.

A better balance needs to be found and that’s what I’ve been trying to do for the last month or so. When I started blogging it was before I had children, and whilst I was still working. Our financial needs were very different to today, and our family life was very different. My blog has organically grown and changed over that time whilst I’ve not had much time to put in to shaping where it was going. Now is the time to direct it a bit more though.

I want to go back to writing about the things I want to write about, the things that make me smile, rather than the things that arrive in my email inbox. There are some brilliant brands that I’m working with right now and I want to put my effort into working properly with them and developing that relationship I have with them. They are brands that make me smile and make me happy.

Over the last two years all my crafting has taken a back seat – it’s hard having a sewing machine or knitting out with an enthusiastic baby or toddler trying to help – but I want (and possibly need) to get back to my craft. It’s what grounded me and helped me relax. September and early October saw me to go the Handmade Fair and also the Knitting and Stitching Show and both visits made me realise what it is I really want to be doing in the future.

Real Simple Life

The moment that really cemented all this for me was when I heard Katie Searle-Williams speak at Meet The Blogger. She is the founder of Kinfolk magazine – a beautiful publication all about “The Simple Life”. It really is lifestyle inspiration – beautiful people sat around lazily, eating gorgeous food, lovingly grown and cooked at home. The meals are taken sat at a vintage style designer table, laden with rustic home wears, and everyone is dressed beautifully. It really is idyllic, and to be honest I’d dream of a lifestyle like that rather than a kitchen over run with plastic toys from China and a quick and easy dinner of frozen food to fit in with my busy lifestyle.

But is this really a simple life? When you look up a dictionary definition* of simple  some of the words and phrases that come up are: not elaborate or artificial; plain; not ornate or luxurious; unadorned; modest; not complicated. As I sat listening to news of the Kinfolk home-wears and clothing ranges being launched I couldn’t help but wonder about the cost of all these things and that to me jared with the “simple” concept. Surely a really simple life is one which makes use of the things around us rather than requiring us to buy new things to live it. It all just sits uneasy with me.

I would say that so many previous generations, especially my grandparents generation in war time, lived a simple life, but that was one through necessity rather than fashion. They were thrifty and economical with what they had. They grew fruit and veg because they had to. Gifts were handmade due to limits on what was available in the shops. They used up leftovers as it was seen as a crime to not do so, especially with rationing in place. Children played with what they had as toys were just not as abundant as they are now. People made their own entertainment. To me that is the real simple life. And it’s the simple life that I want to embrace and blog about.

I’m not saying that I’m never going to buy anything new again, or stop buying toys for my children, but I do want to slow things down and stop feeling all this pressure to have to buy simple things to live a simple life. I want to build memories with my children that are based on experiences rather than expensive extravagances. I want to spend time making things that become treasured possessions rather than spending money to buy in a lifestyle. I want to make the time to sit and enjoy a good book rather than rushing from one thing to another. And I want to blog as I do so.

It may make us a bit cash poorer in the short term, but I have hopes that I can build my writing and other work back up to sit around this real simple life and to do so in a way that I feel more content with. Until then some belts may need to be tightened, but I’ve come to realise that being happy is what matters most to me and my family. Life’s too short and my children’s childhood too precious to be otherwise.


* taken from

So much of Little Miss C’s learning stems from books and when I see her curled up in bed or in her “reading corner” with a book it just gives me a bit of a warm glow inside to see her starting that reading journey that I loved as a child. It’s not just words and language that children learn from books though and one thing that I really like about Spot a Lot Animal Escape is how it encourages children’s maths and observation skills too.

The opening lines of “There’s trouble at the zoo today… The animals have run away!” instantly grabs children’s attention and they instantly want to know what has happened, where they’ve gone and how they’re going to be found. On each page children are asked to find an increasing number of animals (one giraffe, two elephants, three gazelles etc) and all this is accompanied by humorous rhyming text and very busy pictures with lots of things to spot in them. There are also loads of little written prompts in the illustrations with more things to look for.

One thing that I also loved about this book is that fact that it works perfectly when you’re looking for a book to share with siblings. The story part isn’t so long that Master C gets bored with it, but at the same time there is so much for him to look at in the pictures that he is amused whilst I do the story with Little Miss C. There is loads that I can ask both children to spot in the pictures, and I can get LMC to count various things to help with her maths learning as we read it.

Doing the bedtime routine single handed with two children can be tricky, so it’s nice to be able to double up at story time and books like this seem quite a rare find – or I’m just looking in the wrong places!

Disclaimer: We were sent Spot A Lot Animal Escape to review by Parragon as part of our role as Book Buddies. This post contains affiliate links.

When you become a stay at home mum after years working in a career where you were actually someone with quite an important busy job it can be a bit of a shock. Looking back, managing multimillion pound projects with stakeholders with conflicting requirements actually seemed quite easy in comparison to trying to get a Duracell fuelled two year old to lie still whilst you change a particularly nasty dirty nappy. Even those arguments about conflicting requirements were a piece of cake compared to two children both wanting the same toy.

Back in my working days I would have thought nothing about heading overseas on my own to go to a work conference where I knew no one. But things change and that was then. This is now.


Two weeks ago, partly in an attempt to take my out of my comfort zone and partly to extend myself as a blogger, I waved goodbye to a worried looking Mr C and headed up to Luton airport from where I was catching a flight to Amsterdam to attend my first overseas blogging conference, Meet the Blogger.

Now, I won’t lie, the idea of two nights where I didn’t have to check the baby monitors were on before going to sleep was very very attractive, but I was also interested in seeing what the blogging scene looks like elsewhere and how it compares to the parent blogging scene that I’ve become part of here in the UK. Meet the Blogger advertised itself as being for “interior, design, lifestyle, food, travel, mummy, kids and eco-bloggers/influencers and publishers” so I figured I should fit in. Their working language was English too. Useful seeing as my Dutch is non-existent!

The kick off event for the conference was food and drinks at a local vane called East 57. Now I have to say this place was AMAZING. It’s a weird mix of being a deli, coffee shop, wine bar and restaurant but they served us the most delicious food and it was accompanied by beautifully paired wine. I wish I’d had longer there as it was just such a wonderful place to start my little Amsterdam adventure.

As I stood there with a Dutch gin cocktail in one hand (Dutch courage obviously) and my phone in the other hand (friends providing moral support via twitter) one thing struck me – all I could hear around me was people speaking Dutch. Now arriving somewhere on your own and trying to join in with other groups of people chatting is difficult enough when you all speak the same language. It’s pretty much impossible when they’re speaking a language you don’t understand. Panic hit me and as a result that Dutch gin cocktail didn’t last very long. With a second one in hand I cautiously set off around the room listening carefully for any language I might recognise. Luckily I finally came across two women earnestly chatting away in English and tried to muscle in on their conversation. Even more luckily they both happened to be crochet bloggers! Wink and Nerissa saved me then from a fate with far too much Dutch gin.

When the conference proper started the next morning I at least felt confident that I’d know a couple of people there, and as luck would have it too more Australians came along and I found myself in that unexpected situation of being at a conference in The Netherlands surrounded by three Aussie bloggers (albeit ones that live in Europe right now). But at least it got me over the language problem as it seemed that most of the Dutch delegates I came across all spoke Dutch most of the time, and although the sessions were all supposed to be in English I did need to remind one speaker of this! For now I’ll just overlook that fact that this conference where English was the working language was sponsored by a magazine only published in Dutch…


The conference programme itself puzzled me somewhat. There were some fantastic sessions (in particular the one on the Future of Blogging) which did inspire me and from which I took away quite a bit, but there were also some sessions where to be honest I didn’t understand how it was supposed to be relevant to all the types of blogger that they’d advertised the conference as being for. The hour long keynote by a designer from Trend Union was interesting, but not really relevant to me, or to several of the other bloggers I spoke to. One interior design blogger thought he was amazing and was so pleased to have heard him speak, but admitted that she couldn’t see how that hour would be relevant to a mummy blogger or a travel blogger.

That wasn’t the only session like that though and I’m still trying to get my head round why a session with the following description ended up being about perfume:

Simply Slow is a growing community organizing small gatherings about authentic crafts and pure food. This session will offer you SIMPLE & SLOW REFRESHMENTS. Come be curious, get in touch and leave delighted!

Yes, it was fascinating to learn that the same base smell is in both Chanel No 5 and Persil laundry liquid, but I’m not sure how relevant it really is to my blogging.

Chatting to some of the other people there it seemed that there was certainly confusion from non-design bloggers as to why the programme was set up to be so focussed on their interests, but not to the other bloggers that they had said were in their target audience. Some of them wanted more of the practical blogging sessions that I’ve been lucky enough to attend here in the UK on subjects like YouTube, Pinterest and SEO.

When I got home from the conference, one of the first things Mr C asked me was if it had been worth it. It was a question I’d pondered on the aeroplane home. If I were to answer truthfully on just the conference programme I’d probably say I wasn’t sure it was worth it, but then if I think about all the people I met and spoke to, and the luxury of having 36 hours on my own to think about my blogging and writing and where I want to take it next then yes it definitely was. The session with Katie Searle-Williams, founder of Kinfolk magazine, was a complete lightbulb moment for me work-wise and one that I’ll be visiting again in a separate blog post, but that moment alone made the trip worthwhile.


Who knew a bin could look so damn sexy? @brabantialife #mtbams

View on Instagram

But where does the kitchen bin fit into all this? Well, one of the Meet the Blogger sponsors was Brabantia, those Dutch people that have managed to make kitchen waste sexy. They were running a little competition whilst there where you could win a bin by sharing a picture on Instagram and using their hashtag. I did that and won. Although, going up onto a stage and being presented with a large kitchen bin that you’re then expected to take home with you there and then seems a little strange at an international conference.


I wasn’t sure trying my luck in getting the Easyjet staff to take it on board was really worth it and having watched someone else on my flight be charged €55 to take the Duty Free she bought at the airport on board I probably made the right decision. Luckily my bin and I were reunited a week later thanks to the Meet the Blogger team and a European courier.

As far as a conference freebie goes though – a new sexy kitchen bin is a pretty good one!


Ladybird Tuesday has become a bit lost over the last few weeks. So much has been going on here and my head has been so busy digesting everything I’ve been discovering about where I want this blog to go that I just needed to park it for a little while. It’s definitely not going away though, especially since I found myself really missing my weekly look at all things vintage Ladybird related.

The lovely Becky from Thrifty Home (and several other amazing blogs!) pinged me on Facebook last week and revealed that she had a few Ladybird books that were in a pile to take to the charity shop and asked if I would like them instead. Is the Pope a Catholic?

So, this week on Ladybird Tuesday I’m delighted to bring you one of those books, A Ladybird Book of Flags from series 584 which was titled the “Recognition” series.

Ladybird Book of Flags

It is very much as the title suggest a book of flags. With beach right hand page featuring pictures of three flags and then the left hand page details the three countries that the flags are for. Although they are not all just country flags as also included are the Royal Standard and the flag of the United Nations.

Ladybird Book of Flags

Originally published in 1968 there are several flags included in this book that don’t exist any more, or that have changed significantly. There are two German flags (East and West Germany) and Russia still shows the USSR’s hammer and sickle. It’s also interesting to think that the Union Jack may have changed significantly had the Scottish independence referendum ended differently the other week.

Whilst this book may today not have the same factual value due to its age, it is a fascinating snapshot of the world as it was at the time of publication. It’s also great for me to test out the pub quiz question of which country has a flag that doesn’t contain one or more of the colours red, white or blue. The quizmaster swore there was only one. I’m no longer convinced, but let’s see if you can come up with the answer.

If you have a collection of old Ladybird books then please feel free to join in with Ladybird Tuesday. There are no formal rules to follow, just leave a link to any post you write in the comments below and if you’re feeling kind link back to my Ladybird Tuesday category here on Being Mrs C. Thanks!

As someone who writes notes about pretty much everything in life it does sometimes feel that my house is full of notebooks – but it’s something I’m definitely not complaining about. I’ve always been someone who likes to write things down in the old-fashioned way, whether it be craft ideas, lists of things that need doing, or just things I need to remember and I always seem to have several notebooks on the go. It was therefore obvious that I was going to choose a notebook or two to go in my first stationery order from Bureau Direct. But, the decision over which to choose took me a while to resolve.

So, what do I look for in a notebook? Firstly, it has to be nice to look at. I don’t want something drab that reminds me of my years of choosing stationery via a civil service procurement catalogue. A bright cover, or a pretty arty one always catches my attention and generally makes me smile whenever I pull out my notebook to write something down. As they so often get carried around in my handbag I prefer them to be no larger than A5 size and the cover needs to be sturdy enough to protect the pages in my bag, although that doesn’t mean it needs to be hardcover – a sturdy card cover will easily do. When it comes to the paper I prefer lined and I generally find that the better quality the paper is then the more inclined I am to write in it, and my new Herbin rollerball has certainly proved that – a couple of old notebooks have now bitten the dust as the Herbin didn’t write in them nicely due to the poor paper quality.

Clairefontaine vintage style exercise book notebook

All that makes me sound rather fussy doesn’t it? I have to admit I am when it comes to notebooks and that’s what made it so difficult to choose one online as you can’t really feel the cover or paper via a computer screen. To some extent I had to put my faith in Bureau Direct when it them stocking quality items and I’m pleased to say that they did not disappoint. After a lot of pondering I went for the Clairefontaine 1951 vintage style A5 exercise books which at only £1.90 each are a complete steal. They are available in six different colours (blue, black, pink, orange, green and turquoise) and I went for the blue, pink, green and turquoise ones. The cover is lightly textured with a space on the front for you to write a subject in. Each exercise book contains 96 pages of Clairefontaine’s lined 90gsm paper. It is genuinely a pleasure to write on.

Clairefontaine vintage style exercise book notebook

I took a couple of these notebooks away with me to Amsterdam for the Meet the Blogger conference that I attended last weekend (much more on that trip very soon). They were perfect for note taking and a couple of other delegates commented on their stylish appearance.

Papelote notebook strap

I was also fortunate enough to have been sent a Papelot Notebook strap as an extra gift from Bureau Direct and this proved to be perfect for my conference trip. Not only did it fit well round two of the Clairefontaine exercise books, but it also meant that any pieces of paper that I slipped inside were not lost. The A5 size that I had holds five pens or pencils meaning that I was no longer rummaging around in the bottom of my vast handbag when I needed to write something down. I’m already wondering how I ever coped without one! The first day I was using it I pulled my notebook out at the swimming pool as I watched Little Miss C’s lesson and the dad sat next to me (who had ignored me for weeks before that day) asked where the strap came from. I call that a win!

Clairefontaine vintage style exercise book notebook

Being the thrifty sort that wasn’t all I managed to squeeze in to my stationery order – oh no. As well as the A5 exercise books I also chose one of the Clairefontaine 1951 vintage-style pocket exercise books purely so it could live in my handbag with all my lists in it – all the dull stuff like what I need to buy in the supermarket seems so much more exciting when it’s all written beautifully in a new notebook.

My final choice was based around my love of crafts that I’m currently rediscovering after a bit of a break. In the past I used to dabble with a bit of crafty design, especially of cross stitch projects and I always found that any such design was best done on squared paper in pencil. Over the years all my nice pencils have vanished so I thought it about time to replenish my supplies. I went for the Field Notes woodgrain pencils mainly as I liked the woody look of them. These are so much more than just a bog standard pencil “Lacquer-free renewable cal-cedar wood casing, recyclable aluminum ferrule, enviro-green degradable eraser and certified non-toxic imprint inks to be precise!” As these come from an American company they’re not the pencil leads that we recognise (2H, HB etc) but instead are an American 2 which I think is roughly equivalent to an HB. I was always someone who preferred something a bit lighter – a 2H girl myself – but these seem good all the same. Nice to write with, feel ergonomically good and stylish too.

Kokoyu 5 angle eraser Kokoyu 5 angle eraser

Now, if you’re buying new pencils then you need an eraser to go with them. All my ones have been used by the kids to try to rub off things like permanent marker so I figured I was due something nice that I could keep just for me. What I hadn’t counted on was the Japanese taking eraser design to a whole new level. I present to you the Kokoyu 5 angle eraser. This is like nothing I have ever seen before. Rather than just a plain rectangle or white rubber, this irregular star shaped eraser is designed on the principal that different mistakes require a different sizer eraser to sort them out.

Kokoyu 5 angle eraser

I’m guessing this is very true if you’re writing in Japanese for instance, but is also the case when drawing out cross stitch designs. Sometimes you might want to just change one stitch, but on other occasions a whole section. The five different erasing points make this possible, and even better still, when you’re worn down one point then you just slice the eraser like you would a salami sausage and hey presto you have a clean set of eraser points for your next set of mistakes. Pure genius!

So, I think it fair to say that I was more than a little impressed by my first order from Bureau Direct. I’ve discovered some new stationery brands that I have fallen head over heels in love with and I’ve found new items of stationery that have quickly become things that I use daily. Quite how I manage to choose what to review for you next month though remains a bit of a mystery. As I’ve chatted to the other bloggers that are working with Bureau Direct I keep discovering new items that I like the look of and want to try for myself. The weekly Stationery Wednesday emails are also just helping to make my long list for next month even longer. Ho hum!

Disclaimer: I was sent the Herbin Rollerball set to review for Bureau Direct, along with some other stationery goodies. All views and opinions are completely my own. Follow the #LOVEstationery hashtag across social media if you want to see everything the Bureau Direct bloggers are falling in love with.

The Clairefontaine 1951 Vintage-style A5 exercise books retail for £1.90 each, whilst the pocket sized ones are £1.25 each. Papelote notebooks straps are £5.95 each and available in three different sizes and a variety of colours. A set of six Field Notes woodgrain pencils is £4.95 and the Kokoyu 5 angle eraser is just £2.50. There is free delivery if you spend £10 and if you sign up for their Stationery Wednesday newsletter you can save a further 10%.

I think I must have been in Year 1 at primary school when I first discovered that stationery could be so much more than just functional pencils and sheets of plain paper. There I was one day when Lucie came in with a pretty floral pencil case. Suddenly this strange urge over took me and I just knew that I needed a matching one. I remember dragging my mum to the local branch of WH Smiths and desperately scanning the shelves to find one the same. I failed. My mum even tried to make one for me from the description I gave her, and whilst it was nice it just wasn’t the same.

But, my eyes had been opened to the stationery delights that exist and there was no going back from that point. Ever since then each new term at school or university was greeted with a smile as I knew it was an excuse to stock up on stationery goodies. Even just recently, the kids moved bedrooms meaning that Mr C and I had a new study at home. Another perfect excuse to stock up on new stationery. As if an excuse was needed!

Bureau Direct

It was therefore perfect timing when I was approached by Bureau Direct and asked if I would be interested in being part of a group of bloggers working with them over the coming months. They’re a lovely firm that manage to combine practical stationery (and in my book stationery has to be practical as well as looking good) with some excellent design from around the world. Along with Annie, Tanya, Kelly and Nickie each month I will be selecting a bunch of goodies from the Bureau Direct website and I’ll be testing them all out and telling you what I think.

Now, as daft as it sounds, it’s actually really difficult to be faced with a website full of stationery goodies and told to choose £25 worth to review. I mean, where do you start? I must have spent most of an afternoon browsing and putting items in an online basket only to keep changing my mind as to what I actually wanted. In the end I had to sleep on it as all that choice was just too much for my head to cope with. I came back the next morning and armed with a cup of tea went through my short long list and narrowed it down to be within budget.

So, what did I choose?

Herbin Rollerball

Firstly – I’ve been after a new pen for ages now and was intrigued by the Herbin rollerball pen. What’s special here is that it’s a rollerball which takes ink cartridges. I love using a fountain pen, but it doesn’t always seen practical when you’re not sitting down and writing loads, so I wondered if this would be a perfect compromise. Also, I’m a sucker for something cute and the little tins that the Herbin ink cartridges come in are just adorable. The set I decided to order combines the pen with three different ink colours (you can choose which you want from a list of 20 different colours) and each tin contains six ink cartridges. For just £10 this is a complete bargain in my book.

Herbin Rollerball Herbin Rollerball

In that slightly funny way that things happen, Nickie also chose to review the Herbin rollerball and freakily chose exactly the same three ink colours that I went for. No conferring at all on that one, but suggests that they must be good choices! We both went for Perle Noir (black), Larmes de Cassis (purple) and Lierre Sauvage (green).

The pen itself is physically shorter than most pens I usually use, meaning that I do need to have the lid on the end of it when writing or it just doesn’t feel right in my hand. It’s a clear plastic design, so you can see the ink cartridge inside, and the lid features a metal tip and clip. It’s got a good weight in your hand and writes beautifully. I noted that some reviews online suggest it can be a bit scratchy and indeed I found that when using it on cheap paper, but when you writing on a smooth surface it flows beautifully.

Herbin Rollerball

The black (Perle Noir) ink is a classic and as someone who prefers writing in black ink to blue it’s ideal. The purple (Larmes de Cassis) seemed a bit light pink for my liking, but that just means that I’ll be ordering some other purple shades next month to try to find the right one for me. The green (Lierre Sauvage) has become my firm favourite though. I once remember reading that green ink is easier to read for long periods than any other colour and since reading that I have indeed found it to be correct, so I often choose to use green ink. This particular green is not too bright to be seen as childish in any way and I like to think it adds a certain gravitas to my written word. After all MI6′s C supposedly always writes in green

Herbin Rollerball

If I had to find one downside to the Herbin rollerball it would be the fact that the ink cartridges seem to last for so long. A whole weekend of note taking at a conference, plus all the usual things that I write on a day to day basis and I’ve still not finished the first cartridge of the green. So, why is this a problem I hear you ask? Well, simply the fact that I’m impatient and want to write things in the other colours too, yet I don’t want to be faffing about changing half full cartridges in and out (I currently have purple and black in that state on my desk). There’s only one solution I can see. I’m just going to have to order another pen. But then, if I’m ordering another pen, I should go for the set with the ink – value for money and all that. And then it would be the perfect excuse to try out some more ink colours (including finding that illusive perfect purple) but then that gives me more colours that I would want to write with. So that might require more pens. Hmmm – I wonder if they do a bulk discount?

LOVEstationery Herbin Rollerball

I never thought a pen alone could fill a blog post, but it has done just that. Trust me, when you find a pen that just works perfectly for you, you’ll want to gush about it too. If you’re looking for a good, quality rollerball pen, where you have the flexibility of choosing from 20 different ink colours then the Herbin rollerball is definitely the one for you.

And if you want to see what else I got to try out from Bureau Direct then just watch this space!

Disclaimer: I was sent the Herbin Rollerball set to review for Bureau Direct, along with some other stationery goodies. All views and opinions are completely my own. 

The Herbin Rollerball Set is available from Bureau Direct for £10. You can also buy the pen on its own for £4.95 and each tin of Herbin ink (containing six cartridges) costs £2.25. There’s free delivery if you spend £10 and if you sign up for their Stationery Wednesday newsletter you can save a further 10%.

See the Miracle

What can you see right now?

Look around the room you’re in and just think for a minute about what you can see around you. There might be people – possibly your family or people you live or work with, or you might be in a cafe somewhere or on public transport. If you’re at home you might see familiar possessions. Photos of loved ones, art work your kids have brought home from school, or souvenirs from a family holiday. You might have the book you’re currently reading laying nearby, or possibly a favourite magazine. There might be a postcard a friend sent you from her holiday stuck to the fridge or resting on the mantelpiece. If you look out of the window you might see your back garden, the street you live or work on, or maybe a favourite scenic view. You suddenly hear a noise and look to where it came from. It could be your husband or wife coming in from work, or maybe your children, grandchildren or the family pet. Whoever it is you smile when you see then – pleased to do so.

But imagine if you couldn’t see. All those things I’ve listed above were hidden from you. The pleasures you take from them blocked by your blindness. Cataracts robbing you of the ability to see the things you love.

Here in the UK operations to remove cataracts are common, simple and readily available. So much so that many of us take the fact we could get cataracts removed for granted if we get them. That’s not the case everywhere though and the results of cataracts can be simply life changing.

Sightsavers have launched a new ambitious campaign called Million Miracles to raise £30 million by 2017 to fund sight-restoring procedures. It costs just £30 to provide a cataract operation for an adult and £50 for a child (more as they require a general anaesthetic for the procedure) and that really is such a small price to pay to give someone their sight back.

See the Miracle

Mr Winesi March - ©RachelPalmer/FieldcraftStudios/Sightsavers

Million Miracles is launching with an amazingly innovative live storytelling event. On Wednesday 8th October at 1.30pm UK time there will be a live online link up with Malawi where we will meet Mr Winesi who, due to double cataracts, has been unable to see for the last two years. We will also be meeting one of the few cataract surgeons in Malawi who will be performing the life changing five minute procedure to give Mr Winesi his sight back and in doing so changing his life. For two years he has not been able to see his dear wife Namaleta. He has never seen his grandson Luca. He can no longer work or provide for his family, and soon their food supplies will otherwise run out.

See the Miracle

24 hours later – 1.30pm UK time on Thursday 9th October – they will all be back live again as Mr Winesi’s bandages are removed and he gets to see his wife and grandson. Watch for yourself as technology allows the rest of the world to See the Miracle that your support of Sightsavers can deliver.

I’ll definitely be watching and I hope you will join me in doing so. If you’ve ever seen a charity campaign and wondered what impact your donation would make to the lives of real people then I hope this will help you see the difference. The lovely Chris over at Thinly Spread has also been meeting Mr Winesi and his family over on her blog (here and here) and it provides a lovely back story to what you will see on Wednesday and Thursday.

The UK Government are supporting the Million Miracles campaign and until 31st December 2014 every donation made will be matched by them. This means that if you donate £30 you will actually be saving the sight of two people. Making a real difference to the lives of two different families.

Please donate and help to provide a Million Miracles (just click the link to do so) and join us to See the Miracle for yourself later in the week.

All being well – some technical wizardry-pokery will be happening to allow me to embed a fancy widget on Being Mrs C to allow you to see the live broadcasts here. I’ll be updating with this widget just as soon as it’s ready.

03. October 2014 · 5 comments · Categories: Life

On Wednesday morning I woke up to find myself in October. Now, I know it shouldn’t be much of a shock after all the calendar has been in place for hundreds of years, but I still found myself a bit staggered when it happened. For the whole summer I was always assuming that life would calm down when it got to September and school started again, but instead the opposite has happened. Things have become more than a bit crazy instead.

I thought things were going to be a bit more straightforward. Master C started going to nursery two days a week at the start or the month (instead of just the one he was doing before) and Little Miss C started school the same week. But, it was a very very gradual start at school and it wasn’t until the 22nd that she actually went full time. Each week until then she was either starting or leaving at a different time and as a younger member of the class it also meant that some of her friends were going for longer hours than her – which she was far from impressed about.

That wasn’t the only new start in the family though as September also saw Mr C leave one job and start a new one. The new job comes with a longer commute (until the company moves offices which is in the pipeline) and that means he’s been away more than usual. Combine that with a couple of networking events, me going to school governor meetings, old school reunions and other voluntary things and it feels like we’ve not seen much of each other of late.

September Birthday Boy

Master C also turned two in September. I’m not totally sure how that happened as it only seems like a few weeks ago that I was holding a newborn in my arms. He’s now turning into such a little boy and his cheeky character is really starting to show. These two years have been somewhat challenging though and his refusal to eat most food (whilst happily snacking on wet sand from the sandpit) continues, alongside various behaviour issues. We’re now fully stuck into the NHS system though, seeing paediatricians, speech and language therapists, the local audiology department, dieticians and numerous health visitors. So far they all seem to agree that everything isn’t completely normal, but quite where is best placed to help us is a bit of a mystery at present. Some departments have discharged us now, but the diary still seems to be full of appointments and I’m finding them all draining. It doesn’t yet feel like the end is in sight, but we’re hopefully heading in the right direction.

Beaded Crochet

By the time we got to the end of the month I honestly felt like September had defeated me, but then after a very early night and a bit of reflection time I recalled all the other good things that happened in the month. I had a fantastic day at The Handmade Fair (and finally learnt how do to something in crochet that isn’t a granny square!), really got stuck into my local WI group and got to know some of the other women there better, went to a very successful school reunion and met up with some old school friends, and finished the month with a fantastic day driving fast cars. The kids are changing and growing daily and (mostly) delighting me with the little people that they’re fast becoming.

There’s plenty that I didn’t do as planned in September, but if I’m honest the only person I’m really letting down is myself, and if I’d only not set myself such stretch targets then maybe I’d feel a bit more relaxed overall. There was so much that I wanted to achieve in the month and part of me feels like I’ve failed for not doing everything I wanted to do, but I should really be focussing on what I have achieved instead. Easier said than done.

For October I think I need to start saying yes to less. Just because someone asks for volunteers to do something doesn’t mean I need to stick up my hand and say that I’ll do it. I need to realise that I do plenty of stuff for other people already and I need to think of myself and the family a bit more.

So, on reflection let’s call September a draw. I think I know what I need to do to get the win in October though – assuming I make sure my goal posts are in the right place! In just a couple of hours though I’m headed off to Amsterdam for 36 hours to a blogging conference where I’m really hoping to get the inspiration and reflection time to work out where I want Being Mrs C to go. I have plenty of ideas, but seem to be a bit stuck in a rut in the parent blogger scene and no longer sure if it’s the right place for me or this blog. Hopefully expanding my horizons, literally, will help things become clearer.

Cast your minds back to Christmas 2011. A long time ago I realise, but it was that Christmas Day that Mr C presented me with a voucher to for a track day experience in a single seater racing car. The pair of us are huge F1 fans and years ago he went for a Porsche vs Ferrari driving experience that I was still rather jealous of.

When I came to actually book my driving experience in late January there was a bit of a niggle in my mind as I read all the T&Cs about medical conditions that might preclude you from taking part. One quick pee on a stick pregnancy test later and I realised that I wouldn’t be driving any single seater racing cars anytime in 2012 and so Mr C benefitted rather well from the Christmas present he’d bought me.

Fast forward to Christmas 2013 and a replacement gift was finally under the Christmas tree and so yesterday Mr C took a day off work as we headed up to Leicestershire and Everyman Racing’s Prestwold Driving Centre. Finally I was going to get to be on the race track myself.

After a comprehensive (and strangely rather amusing) drivers’ briefing I was taken out onto the track for a demo lap in a Skoda. Round we went a couple of times having the various points for braking, turning and accelerating on all the corners explained to us, along with the general rules for overtaking etc.

By this point nerves were beginning to set in a little bit. Everyone else there seemed to be going on a standard experience in a super car where they got to have an instructor sitting next to them. I was going to be able to do that in a Porsche, but then I was going to be out there on my own in the single seater. Every member of staff that saw this on my driving ticket just responded with a “ooooh you’re doing the single seater. Brave lady!” What had I let myself in for???


The Porsche experience was first and I was taken to the Porsche 911 Gumball Turbo by a lovely female instructor (whose name I never did manage to catch – sorry!) and I finally got that experience of having some real power under my right foot. It certainly went a hell of a lot faster than our Skoda estate does and it felt really strange being able to just put my foot down totally and not worry about how fast I was going, other than to get round the corners safely. The thing I found hardest though was the lack of mirrors. To ensure your safety on the track the instructors set up all the mirrors for them so they can be in charge of overtaking and being overtaken by other cars. I had no idea how much I used my mirrors when driving until they were taken away from me.

Driving Experience Porsche

My experience was for 6 miles in each car which was 4 laps of the track at Prestwold. I’m glad it was such a distance as I really only felt that it was by the fourth lap that I’d really relaxed into the car and had got a proper feel for it. I struggled to remember to change gear at all, mainly as I was busy trying to remember everything else I had to do. I think also the nerves about the single seater experience were also taking hold.

Driving Experience

After the Porsche experience was over I was directed towards where they run the rally driving experiences from to get a race suit and helmet and then headed back to find the man that they seemed to affectionally call “Stig’s Granddad”, Alan Smith, who was my instructor for the single seater experience. It was when finding a race suit that I found another brave sole that was also down for the single seater experience, although with him being 6’4″ tall it soon became apparent that he was too tall for the car and I think he later went out in the Caterham with Alan instead.

So there I was all suited and helmeted up and I Was taken over to the Formula Ford car that I was going to be driving round the track. Luckily at this stage I didn’t notice (and Alan didn’t point out) that it was car number 13. If he had I think I would have pulled out there and then!


The Forumula Ford car is really so very stripped down compared to what I’d been driving earlier. There’s not much inside other than the necessities for speed and safety. With my short little legs it was also a bit of a challenge to make sure that I’d actually be able to reach the pedals. A few cushions behind my back pushed me forwards enough though – and also prevented me from getting the bruised spine that Mr C got when he did his single seater experience.

After a quick lesson on the gears – very basic and easy enough to take the skin off your knuckles when you changed gear – and a realisation that these cars weren’t really built for women who had hips at all it was time to be off on to the track. I had worried about being out there all on my own and being a hazard to other drivers, but they way they do the single seater experience is that an instructor goes in front of you in a Skoda and you follow. They then keep their window wound down and use arm signals to tell you when to stay to left as you’re being overtaken, or when you need to move to the right to overtake someone else. Alan was the kind of guy that you just put all your trust into straight away so instantly I could forget all the worries that I’d had about being a danger to other drivers and enjoy the experience.

Driving Experience Single Seater

And enjoy it I did! The Formula Ford was so different to drive, but having had the experience of going out there in the Porsche first I felt that I knew enough about the track that I could apply what I’d learnt to driving the single seater. Certainly the experience of having your foot flat to the floor as you fly down the long straight was an amazing one, and not something I’ll forget in a hurry. I completely loved the whole experience and am so glad that I finally got to have a go.

In true review style I should say something about the day as a whole. Mr C didn’t book directly with Everyman Racing, but through some other gift company, but all my experiences with Everyman to book the experience itself was very professional. Promised emails telling me exactly what I needed to do and what I needed to send them in advance were all done in a timely manner. They were very helpful on the telephone and there were clear instructions as to what to take on the day paperwork-wise.

At the venue all the staff I encountered were very good. There was excellent customer service and the instructors were fantastic. The drivers’ briefing was very good, but did go on somewhat longer than I’d expected meaning that the rest of the times on my race ticket were pushed back a bit. Not a problem, but had we been dashing off later we’d have been late. Luckily another mum from school had collected Little Miss C for us so we didn’t have to worry about that.

The only thing that I would say let Everyman down at Prestwold were the physical facilities on site. The buildings (or portacabins as many were) looked very tired and it really looked like they could do with some money spending on them. The toilets were all adequate and generally clean, but again it looked like they’d not seen much investment lately and they could do with some. It was a shame as it jarred slightly with the luxury experience of driving a super car and when you see the prices for things like getting photographs of your experience it made you wonder why they didn’t invest some of that profit into the facilities at the site. In fairness they might be due an upgrade over the winter for all I know, but if they’re not I hope the management there will read this and consider doing so!

It was an excellent day though and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Everyman Racing for anyone looking to book a driving experience for someone as a gift, or even for themselves. Thank you Mr C for the Christmas present.

Disclaimer: I was not paid in anyway for this review. My driving experience was a gift from Mr C and we chose to pay for the photo package whilst there.

Wyld Wood Cider

There are some emails that you receive as a blogger that you end up reading and re-reading to check that they’re really true. The one that came from Weston’s Wyld Wood Cider asking if they could send me some cider to review was one such email.  Some people may think me a bit queer, but to be honest when I go one a rare night out to the pub I’m someone who is much happier ordering a pint (or half pint) of something to drink than a glass of wine – although don’t get my wrong, I do love wine too, but it’s just a preference thing. When Mr C and I moved to St Albans years ago I discovered my love of real ale and from many many summer afternoons spend at local beer festivals I also then discovered my love of cider and perry. There’s something just so refreshing about a proper cider and it really is a true taste of summer as far as I’m concerned.

Weston’s certainly didn’t hold back in making sure I had plenty to taste in order to write my review and I was pretty gobsmacked when the delivery man arrived at my door with two large, heavy boxes. In the first were several bottles of their classic Wyld Wood Organic Cider, whilst the second contained four three litre boxes of the Wyld Wood Organic Still Cider.

Wyld Wood Cider

The Wyld Wood Organic Cider was exactly as a good cider should be in my opinion – crisp, refreshing, sharp and fruity. It is described as an “intensely fruity cider, matured in oak vats from apples grown in organic orchards” and it really was perfect on a hot summer evening, and at 6% ABV it’s certainly got a bit of a kick to it.

Wyld Wood Cider

The Organic Still Cider was a bit different though. I’m not used to a still cider and to be honest as you go in for the first sip of a glass it’s almost a bit confusing at first when you don’t get the fizz on your tongue when you’re expecting to. It’s refreshing to drink, but being still it does lose a bit of the crispness I thought. Mr C initially thought it was a bit like a glass of normal cider that had been left to go flat, but since then he’s gone back to it time and time again to drink and it appears to have grown on him.

I really liked the taste of the still cider, but for me the problem was that it was just so easily drinkable, which can  be a bit dangerous when it’s also 6% ABV!

On a practical level the 3l box was perfect for going in the fridge and allowing us to just go and have a small glass whenever we wanted. It did demonstrate to us that our kitchen fridge is rather small though. The box would also have been ideal for taking along to a BBQ or to a festival. Mr C is also very keen that I point out how good the tap on the box is too – far better and easier to use than the ones we remember on wine boxes.

If, for whatever crazy reason, you decide you don’t want to just drink the Wyld Wood, Weston’s have pulled together a series of recipes that include their cider. In my mind chicken or pork cooked in cider is simply delicious.

We really enjoyed Weston’s Wyld Wood Cider – perfect when relaxing on a summer’s afternoon. And with the way that the hot summer weather is continuing through September, and possibly into October it looks like this year’s cider drinking season is set to continue. Cheers!

Disclaimer: We were sent a selection of Weston’s Wyld Wood Cider for the purposes of this review.