About Michelle Garrett & her Blog
Michelle is a winner of Top 25 European Moms - 2012
What's the best part about raising a family in the European Union?
The wide variety of cultural experiences is probably my favourite thing about raising a family here.
We're only three hours drive to Stonehenge, we got married in a thousand year old castle, we live on a Roman Road, and of course we're only 40 minutes to the centre of London, one of the world's most culturally varied, historic cities.
Within an hour of my house we can go to a London West End Musical or play, we can visit some of the greatest art galleries in the world, we can see world class sport, we can explore ancient castles, we can visit the oldest church still standing in Britain (1400 years old!), we can row on the River Cam in Cambridge and we can eat at the Michelin starred restaurant opposite the boathouse. Our favourite local pub is Victorian, and we can walk there across the fields past WWII cement bunkers built for the Home Guard to use to protect the country in case of an invasion. An ancient woodland is located near us and is a rare surviving example of a medieval royal hunting forest, of great historical and ecological importance.
Living where we do in Britain, we are also an easy day journey to the rest of Britain and Europe where we can visit other world cities and more beautiful countryside. For example, for a field trip recently my daughter visited the World War I battlegrounds in Ypres, Belgium.
Actually, free healthcare is another great thing about raising a family in Britain. With a very active family who get a lot of bumps and bruises--and bigger things too, I don't have to sweat it when I need to take my kids to the doctor.
What's a great destination for a family vacation in Europe?
Like my home country, the United States, there are endless places to choose from! But I know Britain best so I'll choose a location there, and my favourite area to vacation in the UK is the county of Northumberland on the Scottish border.
Northumberland has a wild and fascinating history from Celtic, pre-Roman times, through the Romans and their building of Hadrian's Wall, the settlement of the Anglo-Saxons and the development of their new religion Christianity, and the violent arrival of the Vikings to the more recent history 900 years ago of the building of the beautiful fortress castles across this incredible landscape to protect Northumberland from the Scots. Several are available to stay in as a guest!
Ancient volcanoes covered in heather provide challenging but excellent hill walking, there are plenty of mountain biking opportunities all over this rugged county, and the wide, clean beaches bordered by great sweeping sand dunes covered in sea grass are perfect for families. The Farne Islands, which you can visit, just off the coast are home to large populations of seals, terns and puffins, among other beautiful and fascinating wildlife.
What's the biggest misconception people have about raising a family in the European Union?
The biggest misconception that I’ve found is that the people living here will be different. Sure, there are cultural differences, but essentially we're all the same--Europeans want the best for their families, the best for the world we live in today and the best future for the world we'll hand to our children one day.
What are your favorite blog posts?
Do you try to give back when you declutter? Please share your family traditions for benefitting others.
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Decluttering regularly is important for us because there's 7 in our family and clutter really builds up! We sometimes sell things on eBay, but the majority of our decluttering (clothes, books, some toys) go to the local charity shops. I have a bag of clothes and a box of books that accumulate over the year and when they get almost too big to lift I put them in the back of the car and forget about them for a few weeks, and eventually get myself organised enough to take them to either Oxfam or Cancer Research UK, both local charity shops.
A few years ago we had some furniture to get rid of and while I was considering eBay I just happened to see a request from a local women's shelter for furniture donations so we gave it all to the shelter.
Another great way to get rid of unwanted items is through Freecycle. Placing an 'ad' for the item on a site and someone who needs it can come and get it. It's not a charity shop but it is helping someone else!
It feels good to clear the unnecessary from our home, but it feels even better to give it to someone who needs it.
What's your family's favorite way to eat cranberries? Please share a link to your recipe!
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This isn't even a recipe but it's such a perfect pairing I have to share it!
In the UK a popular grown-up party food is simply mixing cranberries and macadamia nuts with a light sprinkling of sugar and salt (to taste). The tart cranberries are toned down by the creamy nuts, and the flavours of both are beautifully accentuated by the light addition of sugar and salt. Perfect!!
What's your best tip for easing the impact of holiday house guests?
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As someone who lives overseas I'm used to visitors who come for two weeks at a time. I LOVE that people come to visit me, but sometimes it really messes with our busy lives.
Here's how I cope with those visits and keep them fun:
1. The number one thing I always try to do is get as many of my jobs/tasks and workload done in advance as possible. Visitors are another thing on that To Do list and so if I can make some room there I'll feel less stressed during their visit!
2. But holidays have their own stresses and people bring their own issues to holidays. I think the overall priority in my house is always 'What's the least stressful way to deal with this?' If I can cut out things that cause me or anyone in the house raised anxiety levels (deadlines, complicated recipes, busy schedules, etc) I do!
3. I would say of equal importance is probably communication--it's always a great thing, right?! Let people know what you need to get dinner done, or let people know that you have a busy day tomorrow with the kids' schedule and here's some ideas for them, or let people know that you need 30 minutes to concentrate on something.
4. Finally, I need my space. So I try to engineer times when I am out of the house for a couple of hours by myself, or when everyone else is out doing something and I am at home alone. Bliss! It helps me recharge my batteries and be a better host. Once I told everyone I had to run some boring errands but I actually booked a reflexology appointment and had a stress-busting hour of total relaxation!