things to bring to soul survivor

The #thingstobringwithyoutosoulsurvivor trend is exploding across twitter and with Soul Survivor announcing a competition for the best camping tip this afternoon it will no doubt reach the same fever pitch as the arrival of the new prince.  So I sat deciding what to add into the mix and tweeted one thing or another.  And then a few minutes I came up with something else, and then something else and then I couldn’t concentrate on a letter to our young people’s parents because I was too busy thinking up camping tips.

Last year in my excitement for SS and the emotional trauma of a not-quite-grown-out fringe I wrote A girls’ survival guide to camping.  But then I felt sorry for the guys out there – maybe because I know for a FACT that some our teenage lads take way longer preening themselves in front of a mirror than their female counterparts.  So I’ve said I’d update my survival guide – with a more neutral perspective in mind…

Survival tip #1:  Pack a hat!


Baseball cap, cowboy hat, sombrero if you want to – just something to cover your head.  If it rains, it will keep you dry.  If it’s hot it will keep you cool.  In the morning it covers bedhead and will save the day on a bad hair day.  Pack it, you won’t regret it.

Survival tip#2: Take an eye mask.

eye mask


You can kiss a good nights sleep goodbye for the week.  It’s just not going to happen.  And though the longest day of the year has past and gone (sigh) it is still getting light around 5am.  You do not want the sun waking you up at 5am.  Wrap one of these babies around your head and it’ll be nice and dark, and you can stay in the land of nod until your youth-leader wakes you up for breakfast, beating a saucepan with a wooden spoon right outside your tent.

Survival tip#3: Gear up for wet weather.


I know, I know.  We’ve had the best July I can remember.  Dry sunny day after dry sunny day.  But we have been warned that the weather is on the turn and I don’t know about you but If it does become muddy I don’t want to be squelching through it in my flip flops.  Grab a pair of wellies and a light rain coat and stuff them at the bottom of your bag. Just in case.

Survival tip#4: Turn the brightness down on your phone, turn off Bluetooth and turn off emails


(I’m not even going to bother suggesting that you turn off facebook, twitter or instagram or I’d be subject to a flogging).

It will save a TON of battery life and keep your precious phone going for longer. You’re welcome.

Survival tip#5: A contribution from Mr Tutus and Trainers.

My husband has been to Soul Survivor about 18 times since he started going as a young teenager.  So he is a weathered camper, presumably wise through his experience.  I asked him for a tip and he immediately came up with this:

“Pack a couple of boxershorts –  but don’t waste space packing too many, just use a pair then turn it inside out the next day…”


DON’T DO THAT FELLAS!! Do not listen to my husband – if you’re in any doubt at all, put the idea past a couple of girl mates – the look on their face will point you in the right direction on that choice.  SO PACK PLENTY OF UNDIES!!


Boys look away now, girls this one’s for you: Invest in a Venus Intuition Razor.


These beauties have solid foam built around the blade – so you won’t need to faff around with shaving foam in those beautiful showers – a little water and bob’s your uncle; smooth legs with minimal effort! Love it.

Final Thoughts:

Dry shampoo,

Torch (to save you from tripping over those guy ropes),

Baby wipes,


Matches/lighter for your stove,

First Aid Kit!

Bible, notepad, pen,

Spare Roll of loo paper!


Happy packing!!





to do lists and hamster wheels.


This is my huddle of gorgeous young women, or most of them.  My serrogate teenager isnt in the picture because she was having a teen ‘moment’, ha!  I seriously love them all.  I’m torn in a maternal struggle of wanting them to dream big dreams, chasing after those dreams with everything they have – and wanting to wrap them all in cotton wool, trying to protect them from any pain.  But when I step back and tell myself to get a grip (I have to do that a lot) I know that I could never do that and all I can do is try and equip them for the challenging but thrilling reaity of life and the awesome plans their creator has for them.

As I sat down with these girls yesterday, we started to look at the book of James in the Bible.  Its a letter written, most probably, by Jesu’s half-brother to the Jews during the time of the early church, after Jesus had smashed death and went back up to heaven.  Right at the beginning of the letter he approaches the innevitability of having troubles in life.  Cheerful start.

No one’s immune from having a rough time every so often.  Not me, not my pastor, not my baby girls and not my young people.  It’s part of life.

Our impulse with anything less than pleasant is to want out.  And fast.  I’m completely target minded and I have been known to do a little dance when I’ve crossed something off on a list, particularly if it was something I had been avoiding.  I love that feeling of phew I’ve done it, I dont need to think about that again.  It’s done.  Only with me, as soon as I’m done with one thing, something replaces it straight away (been there??) – so you find yourself on a hamster wheel always chasing being done.  But as a mum, and a mum that likes to be in control, I have become familiar with frustration for six years because I never seem to reach the end of ‘the list’ of what needs doing.

But this morning, listening to this podcast (Steven Furtick from Elevation Church) I just got it.  A lot of what Im writing is coming from a middle-of-the-night session of insomnia and this podcast.  You might have got it a long time ago and I’m just being slow.  But he was talking all about it being a process not a project.  ‘life’ isn’t supposed to be ‘done’ and polished off.  When I’m on that hamster wheel (I’d use a treadmill as an analogy but to be quite honest, a hamster wheel is probably more believable) and I’m trying to get to the end, to finish ‘it’, I’m just going to exhaust myself trying and become dejected with hopelessness.



We can miss a lot of growth within the journey when we’re just trying to get it over with.  Even the hard and painful stuff.  Especially the hard and painful stuff.

Steven furtick talks about a Prison of war in Vietnam – Admiral Jim Stockade – who was held captive for over 8 years and regularly tortured.  He got out alive – and so its a happy ending.  It’s easy to see hope in something when you know the ending, right?  He was interviewed and asked how he held onto his faith when he didnt know what the ending was going to be.  His answer was this;

“I never lost my faith in the end of the story.  I never doubted not only that I would get out but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into a defining event of my life which in retrospect I would not trade.”

Impressed, the interviewer asked Jim who didnt make it out.  Jim answered “oh thats easy, the optimists“.

Completeley confused the interviewed told Jim he didn’t understand, after that what he’d just said about faith, and so Jim continued:

“They were the ones who said ‘we’ll be home by christmas’ but christmas would come and go and then they’d say ‘we’ll be out by easter’ but easter would come and go. Then it would be thanksgiving and then christmas again.  They died of a broken heart.  This is an important lesson: You must never confuse faith that you WILL prevail in the end, which you can never afford to lose, with the discipline to confront even the most brutal facts of your reality, whatever they might be.”

I found that staggering.  A beautiful balance of faith and the courage we need to face our realities.  Denial just pretends to be our friend.

Our situations sometimes really suck.  It’s not easy.  But there’s promise of growth and goodness in this process we call life and there’s someone who can walk with you through it.  He’s called Jesus.

Tv diet.

I’m always blathering on about being intentional. With what we do, in what we think and what we decide. Life can pass us by with us stuck in neutral. Maybe it’s just the control freak in me.

It’s way too easy to flop onto the sofa in the evenings and watch whatever is on tv whether we wanted to watch it or not. I don’t want to even try and guess how many hours I’ve wasted doing that. So we try not to do that in our home anymore. We watch what we want to watch, guilt free, via Netflix, sky plus and online demand tv. I may be slightly too addicted to Vampire Diaries but it does mean that when we’re not watching something the Tv Is actually off. Novel, right?!

Tonight is one of those rare nights that The Husband and I will be staring at the big silver box in the corner of our living room. We have a date with corrie. I don’t even really watch it anymore but we both wanted to see what crazy Kirsty does on her wedding day. Don’t say we don’t live on the edge!

six months.

It’s the 6 January.  That means that I in six months it’ll be my birthday.  And I’ll be thirty.  And this means that I don’t have long to get through my challenge-30 list.  Eek.  I’ve just looked through and I’ve found that I’ve ticked off twelve of the thirty challenges.  Eighteen to go.  The odds are not in my favour.  In my defense these eighteen do include visit a Disney World and a day spa – neither of which seem very likely, ha! A lot of them, though, seem pretty do-able and so I’ll endeavour to finish the lot before the clock strikes twelve.

There’s nothing magical about this list.  I don’t turn into a pillar of salt if I don’t complete the challenge.  I doubt I’ll even be disappointed.  The whole purpose of it is not in the result but rather the process.  Sometimes we need to give ourselves a kick up the bum; to break out of the mundane, to widen our horizons, to reflect and discover that there is much joy in life if only it were grabbed with two hands.  Some of the things of my challenge-30 list are ridiculously trivial.  They are nothing in the grand scheme of things.  But they are stuff that I’ve either wanted to do for a long while or at least know I’d have a load of fun trying it out.  Plus, I’m a goal orientated person, I do enjoy the satisfaction of ticking something of a to-do list.

Girls back to school tomorrow and so the new year really kickes into gear.




Now that I’ve got a new phone, I’ve been dragged from the dark age and am over the moon to have more options at my fingertips.  So I’m going to have a go again at photo 365.  Eek.  I’ll be taking all the pictures from my iphone and uploading them through instagram.

So here’s to 2013. The year that I’ll leave my 20s, celebrate 10 years since The Husband proposed to me and embrace all it holds for me and my family.  New years resolutions and challenges to come soon! Have a good one tonight and I’ll see you next year!


soggy days, tummy bugs and a call to Green Flag

Its a weird week between christmas and new year.  I’m not ready to say goodbye to the christmas decorations, but that high of pre-christmas anticipation has left the building.  My younger self would be wanting to make each day count – taking advantage of our little family being together.   At some point I’d be wanting to storm the sales, a husband and two littlies in tow. Expectation would have been high.  But with that would have come pressure to meet that expectation – and as does happen at times like this, too high expectation leads to disappointment (and a shopping bag full of ‘bargains’ that I wouldn’t have been interested in otherwise).

This year we wanted to make these days count.  There have been no day trips, bundling the girls into the car and facing the elements.  There has been no detailed itinerary.  Ultimately there has been no expectation.  There were days where the girls have not been out of their PJs.  There were hours of christmas TV watching.  There was one afternoon where Chloe (6) took me shopping to spend her christmas money and we had a little mooch around the sales without Ruby playing hide and seek in the clothes rails.

There was also a barrel full of tummy bugs and viruses unleashed on our family.  Ruby got sick the day before Christmas eve, I got sick on Christmas evening and The Husband got sick two nights ago.  Thankfully, Ruby and I recovered after 24 hours or so and The Husband is just starting to eat again.  Maybe this is why we’ve had a take it as it comes mentality towards this week, maybe it was the soggy weather.  Whatever it was, it did us all some good.

What didnt do us good was me parking at Morrisons and walking away from the car with the lights still on.  An hour later I walked out of Morrisons with Chloe and as soon as I saw the car I just knew the car wouldn’t get us home without a call to breakdown services.  It was a bitter lesson learnt!

I’ve put my photos from Challenge Photo 52 on up at the top and I just have the last one to take and put up for it to be completed!  Hurray! I’ll put up that last one tomorrow as we bid farewell to 2012, along with a few thoughts of the year ahead.

Christmas 2012 – The Steward way.

IT’S CHRISTMAS EVE! I can’t believe its been so long since I blogged.  It’s never been far from my mind – only it’s been fighting for space with all things christmas and….erm, Netflix.  A little while ago, Tom, my bro-in-law introduced me to Netflix and I’m hooked.  The perfect escapism from pain when I’ve needed to rest up.  I’ve fallen in love with Mr Rochester from Jane Ayre and can’t stop working my way through the six seasons of Monarch of the Glen – why did I not love this when it was on TV??

The Stewards have scaled Christmas right down this year.  You see, I’m an ideas person.  So it’s no surprise that in October I was concocting endless schemes of creativity.  I blame Pinterest.  I was all set to glitter some christmas baubles, bake endless Christmas treats and get skinny to wear cute polo-necks and tartan skirts.  The thing is I just sat eating Quality Street, staring at more and more pinterest ideas, putting an end to all my festive goals.  I did manage to sew a few christmas felt hearts and crochet a few snowflakes (I know – get me!) that make my fireplace look pretty – but that is as far as I got.  Oh yeah – I did also bake  some devastatingly flat and floppy profiteroles too.  Last year I cut out a recipe for gingerbread cookies and made way too many because they were so amazing – and this year I just couldn’t find it anywhere.  Gutted.  I toyed with the idea of trying a different recipe but I knew they wouldn’t be the same so couldn’t bring myself to it.

What the family has achieved though, is worth way more than the best homemade decorating or the most impressive christmas cookies.  We have slowed down.  We’ve sat together and picked out our favourite chocolates from the tin.  We’ve watched ridiculously cheesy and naff christmas movies and we’ve sat with the Radio Times on our laps and negotiated picked out what we’ll record in sky plus.  The Husband and I have soaked in the girls’ innocent excitement with the bitter sweet knowledge that it won’t last forever.

This morning The Husband let me sleep longer and took the girls to meet grandma and grandad for breakfast.  We’ll potter this afternoon, no doubt further familiarising oursleves with Quality Street, and later we’ll head out to be with our church family at a christmas service.  We’ll then head back home, sprinkle reindeer food on our lawn, get a snack out of Father Christmas, tuck the girls up in bed and tuck in to our traditional chinese takeaway.

It’s nothing flash or impressive.  I won’t be feautured in Good Housekeeping.  But I’m sane calm and collected, and looking forward to christmas day.