Big issues: Save Syria’s Children #savesyriaschildren

In the Syrian conflicts fifth year civil war continues to devastate children’s lives, living in fear, being denied an education, hospitals destroyed and fleeing war. Refugee resettlement isn’t a new issue, this hasn’t somehow just reached fever pitch, the scenes in Calais and Hungary are simply the tip of the iceberg and the world can no longer avert its gaze.

Humanitarian Disaster

People didn’t expect and many didn’t like the picture of three year old Aylan Kurdi appearing on their newsfeeds, Aylan’s tiny body was washed up on a beach in Turkey, this beautiful little boy the same age as my daughter, sadly his photograph is the one thing that has made people pay attention and so I won’t apologise for sharing it. These are real people, real children, fleeing, it could have been my daughter, your son.

There are millions more children just like Aylan who need help; the refugee crisis isn’t going to go away and I feel we have a moral obligation to join together and act accordingly. This is the worst humanitarian disaster of our time – The U.N. estimates that 7.6 million people are internally displaced. When you also consider refugees, more than half of the Syria’s pre-war population of 23 million is in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, whether they still remain in the country or have escaped across the borders. As we have seen, the risks of the journey to the border can be as high as the risks of staying, imagine weighing this up for your children, what choice do you have, what chance do they have?

Do something

The groundswell of grassroots campaigning and organising that I have been following has heartened me (North East Solidarity with Calais Refugees for local readers but there are lots of other local groups springing up nationally), people organising collections of goods and clothing, tents and shelters, encouraging donations and organising protests, ordinary people who want to stand together and say yes, we see you, we hear you, we stand by you. People asked what real difference can we as individuals make, we can speak with one voice and say refugees are welcome, we can raise awareness and we can give our money, time and resources. When I was contacted by a group of bloggers who suggested we get together as use our blogs as a collective voice I thought this was another way I could be involved.  I love how the blogging community gets behind a cause and each other and feel privileged to be part of this.

It could have been me

I am using my blog post to say ‘it could have been me’ and am making a donation to Save the Children as well as getting involved in local community activities.

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You can make a donation by TEXTING 70008 and the word SYRIA to donate £5 (see T&Cs) or you can make a web donation

There’s lots that you could do from the comfort of your own home.

Please don’t turn a blind eye.

Do Something to help.

Anything.

Whatever you decide, don’t choose apathy

#savesyriaschildren

Top Tips for creating a home office in your bedroom

After five years in my current job I am moving on to pastures new, starting a new full time job working from home. This has its benefits in terms of my personal preference for homeworking, but also enables my lovely husband to drop some of his hours to have more daddy-daughter time which I’ve blogged about before, this is an important change for all of us, and a busy time too!

I haven’t worked from home in the time since I became a parent, and space is at even more of a premium for my family, so I saw some challenges in creating a home office space that I think I have managed to meet happily.

Last time I worked from home my office was set up in our living room, but this is no longer practicable with a toddler around and all of the trappings of life with a small person, so this post is all about setting up a home office space that integrates with living in a small family home and uses smart solutions and technology for making the transition into home working.

Top Tips for creating a home office in your bedroom

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I’ll precede all of this by saying that we live in a small flat, well, it’s actually a large flat in some aspects, the rooms are light bright and spacious but storage space is lacking, and space for a desk even harder to accommodate!

Home office in a bedroom: planning

I decided to set up my home office from our master bedroom in the absence of a spare room. Creating a home office in your bedroom is actually pretty practical if you’re clever about your use of the space.  I have opted for a bureau setup with the IKEA Secretary desk from their PS 2014 range, complemented by office furniture and peripherals that make the space really work for me.

Opting for a laptop bureau means that I can pop my devices and paperwork inside the main body of the desk at the end of each day so that we reclaim the space as our bedroom and I can literally call time on the working day. The space up top acts as a handy store for all my stationery and keeps important papers and notebooks out of the way of my inquisitive toddler!

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I thought about whether to make the space distinct or keep the colour scheme in line with our existing bedroom palette, I opted for the latter because it’s a calm room and I didn’t want bright and vibrant office ware to detract from the relaxed feel of the space.  Hannah from Mumsdays has wrestled with such issues recently, and I love the palette she is looking at too, but her post really inspired me to look at what we already have and how we can complement this!

Top Tips for creating a home office in your bedroom: colour

So… I have gone for a soft, complementary and feminine palette to denote a separate work space that ties in nicely with the overall feel of the room, my chest of drawers gives you a feel for the style of the room.

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Speaking to Graham and Brown about some ideas for the space I decided to build on the soft sage theme in our bedroom drawing in colours from their Dreamscape range which I have also drawn out in the stationery and furniture too. You can see from my home office pinterest board that this draws on peach, cream, soft muted blues and corals.  More on this in another post looking at the Dreamscape range with a review to follow.

Follow Thereandbackagainamotherstale’s board Home Office Edit on Pinterest.

Top Tips for creating a home office in your bedroom: making the space work hard

I sought advice from Logitech about smart wireless solutions for homeworking and I have found their K400 wireless keyboard and mouse to be really effective in making the transition to homeworking in a way that works for me, they’re sleek and really easy to get to grips with, I’m not very techie but I got these two beauties up and running in minutes!  I can now work from anywhere in the house, so on days when I am home alone and everyone is out I can be in the living room with a wireless setup that I can also take out on the go when I am on site visits too.  This fits really well with blogging life too – with a wireless range of up to 10 meters, I can even browse the web and blog all from the comfort of my sofa!  I thoroughly recommend exploring wireless options as you can make your whole home work for you!

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As a National Stationery Week blogger you will know stationery is a priority of mine! I’ve selected complementary colours from Dutch store Hema, Smiggle and Marks and Spencer drawing on the colour scheme with fun and practical notebooks, pens and office equipment – I know this stuff doesn’t set everyone’s world on fire but I’ve always loved to work with a bit of creativity and this helps me draw a bit of colour into my working day!

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Having some photos helps personalise the space and I wanted to treat myself to a little something special too, when I heard I got the job I treated myself to some accessories from my favourite homeware store, Anthropologie, I adore this coaster and mug, as well as the sweet little plant pot!

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Top Tips for creating a home office in your bedroom: Practical planning tools

And finally, in terms of literally working from home and doing the do, I selected a bright vibrant magnetic glass noticeboard in Retro Yellow, (no secret that it’s my favourite colour!) from Boards Direct – this lets me make a quick note whilst I’m on the phone, have a visual to do list to hand and handily stores notes and business cards too with super strong magnets.  I love the write on wipe off nature of this, and with a choice of up to 21 beautiful colours and 7 sizes there’s something to suit every office space and budget, with boards starting at less than £25.  This 45cm x 45cm board is ready to be fixed up on the wall later this week, priced at just over £40 it’s a bright statement and functional piece that offers great value and quality.

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What about you? Do you work from home? What tips do you have for making your workspace work hard for you?

Disclaimer: I received goodies from Logitech and Boards Direct, all views are my own, all other brands referenced are of my personal preference and I bought these products or already owned them!
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Organic September

Organic September is the UK’s biggest celebration of all things organic, the Soil Association is encouraging us all to choose organic so we can all support a kinder, greener and better food system.  This September they’ve encouraged us to make small changes that have a big impact on the environment; by switching one household item to organic we can make a big difference.  Check out the #organicseptember twitterfeeds and you might even bag yourself a bargain with discounts and trials available before the end of the month.

I’m celebrating Organic September on the blog by introducing you guys to some potential small changes.

You may remember a while back I looked at some of the small changes parents could make when bringing their bundle of joy into the world with my Eco Parenting from Birth to Toddler series.

Now it’s the turn of the grownups with a glorious set of organic goodies to choose your ‘change one thing’ from!

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1) Haircare

We’ve been using some of Aubrey Organics products for a while now, you might remember our suncare review earlier in the year.  There’s big talk about going ‘no shampoo’ (no-poo!) but that’s not for everyone and switching to haircare products that are better for the environment could be a good way to make the transition to more ethical haircare in the long term.  I’ve been using the delicious smelling Aubrey Organics Tea Tree and Primrose shampoo this week and this is one organic switch that’s good on the purse too, as this is cheaper than my usual salon shampoo and smells better to boot!  Organic Tea Tree Oil purifies the scalp whilst the addition of Organic blue green Algae strengthens the hair fibres and Organic Primrose Oil gently moisturises.  A little goes a long way and this is one product ‘switch’ that new mums experiencing hair loss might want to consider as blue green algae has hair growth promoting properties.

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2) A treat for mother and baby

I heard about Lavera organic baby products from a friend in Germany; now available in the UK, making a switch from some of the better known baby oil producers to an Organic producer has benefits for the environment as well as mother and baby.  Lavera Baby & Kinder Organic Neutral Skin Oil contains many organic oils, especially evening primrose oil & organic olive oil to make sure your babies skin is moisturised thoroughly & protected, as the combination of organic oils is perfect in soothing irritated skin, including eczema this is a multi-use product that could take you from baby massage to a post-shower treat for mum (or dad!) Joss still loves me doing her baby massage routine and it can be great for taming tantrums too, this oil is rich but penetrates the skin without leaving greasy hands, infact it left my hands gorgeously soft!

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3) Organic Eggs

Of course the Organic standards are not just related to clothing and beauty but to food too.  The Happy Egg Co bring us free range happy eggs from happy hens in addition to recipes and nutritional tips on their brilliantly bright site.  They now bring us Organic eggs too produced by hens fed an organic diet free from GMO’s, pesticides and other additives and graze on organic land. As with all happy egg hens the ‘girls’ that produce organic eggs have a full, enriched, and happy life so if you made this switch you’d also benefit from knowing that you’re supporting animal welfare, oh and you can make tastier treats too, like these cupcakes I made with a half dozen Organic Happy Eggs, yum!

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4) Eco-beauty

Oriflame’s eco-beauty range brings natural Swedish beauty products to the UK.  As well as a smoothing day cream and night cream I reviewed their eco-beauty smoothing eye cream; a lightweight and natural Organic formula that smooths fine lines and reduces puffiness and dark circles around the eye – I liked that it is unscented and it has a lovely lightweight texture too.  Starting with a small change to organic skincare with changing a facial product is a small change with big results for your skin regime.

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5) Organic cotton clothing

Where possible I love to choose organic cotton, it has an unbeatable softness and washes beautifully.  I have added this organic cotton waterfall cardigan from Traidcraft to my Christmas wishlist, I have many of their long sleeves tees and they wash and wear so well that I just know this will make a great addition to my wardrobe, in rose and burgundy I just need to choose a colour now!

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Disclaimer:  All of the products featured were sent to myself for review purposes or chosen for my wishlist and all views are my own

Postcards from the City: UK Cityscapes

Postcards from the City, UK Cityscapes is a project being developed by local-to-me photographer Mandy Charlton; Mandy plans to document and photograph all 69 cities of the United Kingdom and inspire them to make bold moves in their lives. No project like this has been undertaken, whilst you will find lists of UK cities and regional tourist information no one person has produced a book featuring all 69 cities of the United Kingdom.

Mandy is undertaking a Crowdfunding route to financing the project “this initial funding will get me to many of the cities and as art is produced city by city I forsee that interest will continue to grow which will enable me to continue this to fruition. At the end of the project there will be a glorious photo book produced with all of the 69 cityscapes in accompanied by some of the adventures I’ve happened upon along the way.”

As you know, I often blog about mental health, Mandy blogs about her own mental health and reason for undertaking this project here – I think she’s taking an incredible step with this project both for herself and as an inspiration to others, in making a donation to Mind, and as well in documenting our great country; I love how she’s captured Newcastle, get involved to bring her to your city next!

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Speaking Up and Speaking Out for LB: Having a voice and being heard

Connor Sparrowhawk’s death on 4th July 2013 was entirely preventable.

He was just 18 years old, a fit and healthy young dude known online and by his loved ones as Laughing Boy (LB), LB loved buses, London and Eddie Stobart, he also happened to have autism and epilepsy.

LB drowned in the bath at an Assessment and Treatment Unit where he had been for 107 days. How can it be that in a fully staffed assessment and treatment unit a young man with a known history of seizures can drown in a bath with nobody noticing until it was too late?

His mother Sara’s fight to bring about #JusticeforLB started with a battle to get an independent investigation into his death commissioned, and another fight for its publication. The #107days campaign is borne out of her wish to inspire, collate and share positive actions being taken to bring about #justiceforLB and all other young dudes. You can read more of the background here and here.

I started to follow Sara’s blog way back when she was talking about what a good life would look like for Connor; a fellow social researcher unpacking the big issues around disability; how heartbreaking to read of his death in July 2013, I felt as though I knew LB and his family, knew the direction in which they were headed.

I asked to adopt day 48 of #107days because it’s my daughter’s birthday, I have a strong interest that she develops a desire to tackle issues of social (in)justice and so it seemed an appropriate way to focus my attention.  This blog post is where my personal and work lives collide.   I have spent much of my working life campaigning for the availability of independent advocacy in Gateshead at Gateshead Voluntary Organisation Council, but in doing so realised early on that my job was not just to promote services and seek funding, but to challenge the practice that advocates see in their day to day work.

Something from my first ever self-advocacy workshop has always stuck in my mind, I delivered a session with a group of young adults with learning disabilities, we looked at some images associated with advocacy, one guy piped up “why do they always use a photo of a megaphone in these speaking up things? You can shout loud and clear but they still don’t hear you, it should be a picture of a fella and his advocate with the hundred-odd letters and emails they’ve sent about a problem instead…”

I want to use the opportunity to blog on day 48 about the importance of having a voice and being heard. Why is it so significant to know that Connor loved Eddie Stobart, buses and speaking his mind? It brings a context that we all have our own interests and our own ideas about what a good life is like, knowing about people also makes them visible and difficult to ignore.

Sara’s blog posts and responses to the independent investigation into Connor’s death make one thing so obvious – I can practically hear her shouting loud and clear about his epilepsy, seizures, about her rights, LB’s rights – here was a voice that was not being heard.

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(Another bus for LB)

So if health and care services don’t hear the voices that are shouting loudly what about the people who have no family, no advocate, no-one speaking for them? The Department of Health’s Winterbourne View report, noted: “Failure to listen to people…and their families [is] a common experience and totally unacceptable”. So a voice is speaking, but what are the barriers to being heard then?

Connor went from being at home with his family to being on an assessment and treatment unit. Let’s take a moment to think about what a home environment might be like, familiar, comforting and for LB somewhere where he and his family would have spent years navigating what a good life looked like, he shared a room with his brother his whole life, creating an environment where he could be expressive and learn to speak his mind.

Imagine being 18 years old and moving into a hospital environment, to live, for 107 days (or, sadly, possibly longer)?

LB was admitted under the Mental Capacity Act, later he was detained under the Mental Health Act. The independent investigation highlighted that staff on the unit tried to explain his rights but LB became distressed so they stopped. The independent investigation suggests there was a lack of clarity from staff both about the purpose of the unit and about why LB was there; if staff did not have a clear understanding of why LB was there how on earth could LB have understood? Shouldn’t he have been helped to understand?

When someone with a disability or mental health issues known to social services turns 18 they undergo a social care process called transition. In effect they transition from children’s to adult services. Who could ensure that LB did understand? His mother surely?

She had to navigate a confused and confusing access system owing to the fact that Connor was over 18 and therefore an adult and could choose or refuse to see his family (dependent, we might assume, on how well or otherwise staff communicated with him?) There is a strong sense from Sara that she wanted LB to live an independent life and make his own decisions, but under these circumstances it seems once the age of transition is reached common sense goes out of the window and regulations about access become king. How come for the first few weeks access was largely unrestricted? Was there some sort of unspoken settling in period after which families are somehow no longer needed?

A final word on speaking up in care settings, I strongly believe that all vulnerable adults should have access to someone who can help them speak up or speak on their behalf, the Care Bill looks set to move in this direction, but how will it be paid for and how will it be delivered? People have had a right to an Independent Mental Health Advocate under the MHA for some years now and we know many don’t see this right respected because of patchy provision, poor commissioning or poor application of the law.

What do we do about making listening the norm against a backdrop of health and social care systems, treatment options, legislation, guidance and working practices? What stops it? Is it that in cases like this decisions must be made quickly so they are made on the person’s behalf? Maybe they’re felt to be in danger or they have an urgent and pressing health concern and the person and their family get left behind? Clearly the very fact that statutory advocacy exists at all suggests we understand the need to hear the person in all of this, so why did Connor’s mum have to fight to be heard?

What would make a difference?

LB’s situation was surely one of the most vulnerable, a young man away from home, navigating a complex system of physical and mental health, sometimes experiencing the conditions that seem to go alongside presenting challenging behaviours; medication, detainment, restraint, with very little support. The idea of whole person care is gaining momentum, moving from the silos of health, mental health and social care to ‘seeing the whole person’ – this must include the bigger picture of families and carers, seeing them and hearing them too.

Properly funded advocacy for all vulnerable adults would be a good starting point. The NHS Constitution is supposed to extend in law a right for patients and their families to be heard. This is not a document to be referred to only in case of complaint but to be woven into practice, especially at the harder end of care. We need to see it given teeth, with a robust evidence base to monitor its application, and it needs to hold the same importance for practitioners as clinical guidelines do.

My blog’s readership is in the main parents, so I wanted to take the time to make an ask. Take a look at this post on what you can do to support this campaign, maybe consider taking the time to talk to someone else about LB’s story, or do something Joss and I did together and draw a red bus, or my crafty readers might want to make a quilt square. Let’s keep the momentum going.

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A look back on a relay great week!

Real Life

This week saw the advent of Joss and I taking part in the Team Honk Relay it was brilliant to be part of this Sport Relief adventure, our journey started with Three Boys and a Cat at the Angel of the North and ended with Mumsdays at Baltic Square – I am very proud of Team Durham and have met two lovely ladies as well as raising money for a great cause!

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This week at work I’ve been musing about work blogs, the budget and new projects I want to get involved in, it’s also been a brilliant week for sleep, which is a brilliant week full stop in my book with Joss sleeping 10 hours straight for two weeks now, wowsers, all this fresh air is so good for her!

Blog Life

Popular on the blog this week have been two thrifty tutorials of sorts, one on recycling wrapping paper and the other on creating a container garden, which has been my baby for the last two blogging springs and the source of much inspiration!

Inspiration

 

This week I was inspired to do some baking for Joss by Charlotte’s Kitchen didn’t manage to snap the blueberry muffins we baked as they got snapped up quickly but I did get a shot of the chocolate ones I made for work

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On the crafty front I really want to try turning some tulle I bought ages ago into a tutu like this for Joss

And I discovered a new read, Dadbloguk through this post – we have talked about the way we both work and how we might accommodate at the very least a Daddy day, so DBUKs post was food for thought this week

And finally…

My favourite photos from this week, after our big Team Honk walk, a spot of hide and seek, now where’s Joss?…

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There she is!
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Mums' Days

– See more at: http://www.mumsdays.com

Hurrah! Hurrah! We hit our Sport Relief Team Honk Target while I was at work today!

We’re over the £500 mark and the overall figure just hit over £24,500! I forgot to share this, don’t tell anyone on the Team Honk crew but the banner made an excellent medium for being pulled around the floor on! I’m sharing this as my Small Steps Amazing Achievements as it was lovely to share my TeamHonk experience with Joss!

To celebrate I made cupcakes to take to work today, and was cheered when I came home by a game of hide and seek and seeing the cherry blossom out in full bloom, now where is Joss? I can’t see her anywhere?!

Team Honk Relay 2014 The Baton Arrives at the Angel in Gateshead!

Today we met Grace from Three Boys and A Cat under a brooding sky to take the Team Honk Baton to Bill Quay ahead of our walk tomorrow morning.

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We were pleased to hear that Grace and her group were greeted with lots of Honks on the motorway!

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We’ll be giving the baton a cuppa and a rest after its 20 mile walk today, ready for handover to Hannah from Mumsdays tomorrow!

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We’re doing well with our sponsorship but still need your support!

Team Honk Relay

This week Hannah from Mumsdays was very proactive in organising a NE parenting blogger (pblogger) meet, we overcame challenges of geography and parenting to get together, we lucky three, Hannah, Rita from Three Boys and a Cat and I to get the ball rolling and talk about a very important endeavour.

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The first ever Sainsbury’s Sport Relief Games take place from Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd March 2014. The public can join the fun and games by running, swimming or cycling their way to raising cash at over a thousand venues around the country, including the landmark events at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

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As one of the biggest fundraising events, Sport Relief brings the entire nation together to get active raise cash and change lives. The money raised by the public is spent by Comic Relief to help transform the lives of some of the poorest and most disadvantaged people both at home in the UK and across the world. An example close to my heart is that £500 could provide six months of support for a young person in the UK with mental health issues.

The Team Honk Blogger Relay starts in Lands End on the 12th January 2014 and finishes in John O Groats on the 23rd March 2014. We aim to raise over £20,000 for Sport Relief. #teamhonkrelay involves over 200 bloggers, their friends and families in a route that zig zags up the UK taking in 38 regional teams and a range of non-motorised transport, and Joss and I are part of the Durham team, getting the Team Honk relay baton from Durham to Alnwick, my girl and I will be taking the baton from Gateshead to Newcastle along the route.

Our plan says that on the 16th March Rita will collect the baton from the Darlington Team Honk team, on the 17th of March Rita will be braving a 20 mile walk in a onesie from Durham to Gateshead via Mammybear in Washington for cake (we like cake, we bloggers!) At the Angel of the North Rita will meet Joss and I for a photo opportunity and then we will carry the baton on foot with Joss in our toddler carrier from the Angel to the Sage in Gateshead and it is hoped that other slingy mams will join us on our walk!

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I will take the baton back home with me that evening and then 18th March we’ll be passing the baton on to Hannah who will cycle it from Blyth the 30 miles to Alnwick, phew! If you are a NE blogger who could take the baton from Newcastle to the coast at Tynemouth or further North then do speak up!

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How can you help? We have a local target of £500 to raise, and if you’d like to sponsor us you can do, here

You can also spread the word on social media:

Team Honk Twitter & Hashtags: @team_honk #teamhonkrelay

Sport Relief Twitter & Hashtags: @sportrelief #SR14

TeamHonk facebook: https://www.facebook.com/teamhonk

TeamHonk pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/LoveAllBlogs/teamhonk-2014-relay-teamhonkrelay/

Honk honk!