Friday, 29 November 2019

Win a Philips Soundmachine for Christmas

Christmas is a lovely time of year, but can become stressful when we add up all the gifts we need to buy. Aside from the cost, there's also the task of thinking what to buy for everyone and then going shopping for everything. This competition might just take the pressure off, buy ticking one gift off your buying list. Everyone loves music, so hopefully this Philips Soundmachine will make a nice present for someone, or keep it for yourself, no judgement here!

Thursday, 28 November 2019

How to Handle Difficult Relatives at Christmas

A house completely covered in festive lights and decorations.
In an ideal world, relatives would be like other people, we would be surrounded by the ones we like, and not obliged to spend time with those we don't get on with. Sadly, it doesn't work like that and Christmas is probably the prime time for testing the tolerance levels of the average adult, often to Hulk-esque proportions, but you can make it easier on yourself. If family politics (or personal guilt) rule out going away for Christmas, pretending to have a highly contagious disease, or faking your own death, here are some suggestions for helping things go more smoothly when difficult relatives threaten your Christmas spirit.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Novotel Bristol Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Baffling!

We've just returned from a stay at the Novotel Hotel, which is situated about ten minutes' walk from Cabot Circus in Bristol. We booked through and paid about £195 for two nights, which is towards the lower price end for a fairly last-minute booking in this area. This secured us a double room with a sofa bed for myself, my adult daughter and teenage son. The hotel is part of the Accor Hotels group and is described on their website as a 'mid-scale hotel for business or family trips'. We've never stayed in a Novotel hotel before and it looked very swish from the outside, so we had high expectations. How did it measure up? Read on to find out.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Win One of Five Christmas Hampers UK Blogger Giveaway

A hamper display of Christmas themed food productsIt's been a little quiet around here lately, as I have been struggling with ill-health, which you can read more about here, and also contemplating a change of direction. In the meantime, somehow, October has been and gone and Christmas is suddenly on the horizon, which seems impossible. As a thank you for all the support I've received, I have joined in with a really exciting blogger giveaway, offering a great opportunity to find other blogs you might enjoy, whilst also taking part in a giveaway to win one of five fabulous Christmas hampers, which would be a great start to the Christmas shopping!

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Don't Rush to Flush #Unblocktober

A white toilet within a red No Entry style circle, with the words 'don't rush to flush #Unblocktober' underneathIt's #Unblocktober! I'm really pleased this is a thing, because it needs to be a thing. Fatbergs are gross and destructive, costing taxpayers a lot of money and many of the unflushables that are flushed down the nation's toilets cause enormous harm to our environment. Whilst researching this post, I discovered a lot I didn't know about what you shouldn't flush and I thought it might surprise you too, so here's a post all about responsible flushing and how you can make #Unblocktober a success. To join the conversation and for more information, including a downloadable resource pack, head over to the Unblocktober website. 

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Cuddle Fairy and the Instagram Pirates - Protect Your Social Media

A drawing of a fairy, smiling, wearing a purple dress and a white flower headbandI am writing this post primarily to help a friend, but also to try to prevent anyone else suffering the same fate. Her plight has made me realise exactly how easy it is for your online content; photos, writing, whatever, to be taken and used against you and how distressing it is when this happens. It is preventable and we all need to take steps to protect ourselves so that blackmailers can't prosper. In this post I will show you how to secure your online life and also how to help support someone who lost everything she'd worked hard for at the hands of these cretins. I think it is important that she gets something back of what she lost, so that those criminals don't win.

Friday, 23 August 2019

A 13 Year Old's Party at AirHop - Review

Each year it gets harder to come up with original and fun party ideas to celebrate L's birthday. It's important to mark the occasion, but older children have different ideas about what's entertaining! This year, however, I got really lucky and won  a party at Airhop in Bristol. We were celebrating L's 13th birthday and, since it's tricky to think of party ideas for older children, I thought I would share our experience. The Extreme UV party has many fun features and this post details how it was received by our guests who ranged in age from 6 to mid-forties! Could we really find a party idea that suited everyone? And what exactly is a UV experience? 

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Giving Up Sugar - After Three Weeks

Two cupcakes on a plate with white frosting and butterfly decoration.
I originally took on the challenge of not eating sugar for Lent, so I have about another two weeks to go. However, I intend to carry on controlling my sugar intake, as I've come to realise the negative impact excess sugar can have on the body. It hasn't been easy, though. In week 1 the headaches started and in week 2 I was hungry and confused, so I didn't really know what to expect from week 3. Now that things have settled down a bit I will be writing these updates as round ups, rather than daily entries, since there aren't as many changes to report. There have still been a few ups and downs though. This is week 3, as I try not to eat the world during my giving up sugar challenge.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

The Bodyguard - Bristol Hippodrome Review

The Bodyguard Frank Farmer, holding Rachel Marron in his arms
Last night we were given tickets to review The Bodyguard, starring Alexandra Burke, who we last saw in Sister Act, along with Benoit Marechal and Micha Richardson. The Bodyguard made its triumphant debut in the West End in 2014 launching Alexandra Burke's amazing theatre career and was followed by a sell-out tour in 2015 - 2016. As well as Sister Act, she has also since starred in Chess and Chicago. Benoit Marechal first starred in the French version of The Bodyguard and Micha Richardson has toured with Legally Blonde, Fame and Mamma Mia. Here's what we thought of the show.

Monday, 25 March 2019

What to Buy a Teenage Boy Gift Guide

Boy looking thrilled with a pile of birthday giftsThis gift guide is entirely unsponsored and made up of all my own ideas, which I paid for myself. Not that I have anything against sponsored posts, they are a great way to discover new products and I wouldn't say I liked something if I didn't, but I feel I should get all the credit for nailing a teenager's birthday with absolutely no help, because it really isn't easy. This is by far the hardest birthday I've had to buy for so far. He gave me a list of four video games, two of which hadn't even been released yet, and that was it. I always think the trick with birthdays is to get some things they want and some things they didn't know they wanted. Here's what I bought.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Giving Up Sugar - After 2 Weeks

I'm very pleased to have got through and survived week 1 of giving up sugar for lent, but it has been a lot harder than I expected and I'm beginning to wonder if perhaps I ate a lot more sugar than I realised. So far, I have not cheated at all, despite the headaches, which I'm really pleased about, but it hasn't been easy. I'm still having small amounts of sugar in some meals, but I have stopped eating all sugary snacks and soft drinks, which has meant I've needed to really think about what I am going to eat. Week 2 has been a lot more stressful than week 1, with a lot of different challenges and this is a diary of how I coped with the side effects of giving up sugar during week 2.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Managing Chronic Pain Week 6

Title text over a faded out photo of a girl climbing on a wooden bar fence.
It's hard to believe we are so far into the course, it's gone so quickly. It's a really nice group of people and I look forward to going. I think I will miss it when it's over. Even though we don't necessarily know why the other group members suffer from pain, or what their circumstances are, it is still really helpful to be able to talk to other people in a similar situation. It really emphasises the point that pain is the same for everyone regardless of where the injury came from, or lifestyle differences. In the group, we've been talking about keeping in touch when it ends, which would be great. This week's topic was flare ups.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Everything That's Wrong with Universal Credit

Rolled up five pound note. I had avoided watching Skint Britain - Friends Without Benefits for some time, as I knew it would likely upset me, since the story is quite close to home. I watched a close friend struggle for years on benefits, it's still too painful for me to write about fully, since my beautiful friend eventually died from a stress-related condition, but it really brought home to me how life and death the benefits system is. It's not just a decision whether or not to hand over some money, or how long for, there's so much more to it than that. It's people's lives. So I guess this post as been a long time coming as I have a lot to say about everything that's wrong with Universal Credit.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Giving Up Sugar - After One Week

I always try to give up something for Lent. I think it's a really good opportunity to remind myself that there are people in the world who don't have things to give up, and how lucky I am to have a lifestyle where I'm able to have little treats and vices. It's usually something like chocolate, but I've been finding that giving up one treat is a bit of a cheat really, because there are plenty of other sweet treats to fill the gap, so this year, I've given up sugar. I have made it a bit easier, in that I don't count the hidden sugar in meals, but I have stopped eating any sugary treats. No cakes, biscuits, chocolate, nothing and it's been interesting. Here are the highs and lows of my first week, which was a lot harder than I expected.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Managing Chronic Pain Week 5

Title text over a faded out photo of a girl climbing on a wooden bar fence.After waiting an hour for a bus in pretty dreadful weather the previous week, it's probably not surprising that I came down with a really horrid cold virus the next day. I know that we shouldn't blame the weather, and viruses aren't caused by standing in the freezing cold, but I'm convinced it made it worse and have been sending psychic hate messages to the bus company ever since. Anyway, the upshot of all this is, that I couldn't attend week 5 because you are can't to go if you have something gross and contagious, on account of it being a course for people with chronic conditions who could have lowered immunity. So this is a summary of week 5, Communication, from the hand outs we received afterwards.

Friday, 8 March 2019

Captain Marvel Parent's Guide

Rows of Marvel Comic Books faded out, with the title in the foreground. It's not that I don't like Marvel films, I do. A lot. The problem I have is that they are heavily marketed at children, with many different toys, plushies, Lego models, etc, all featuring superheroes from the Marvel franchise. Which is absolutely fine, children need heroes, positive role models to look up to, but, here's the annoying part, the films are a 12A and often feature language and scenes that not everyone would consider appropriate, even if they are the right size for the corresponding costume! So, here is another Parent's Guide, so that you can make your own mind up about Marvel's latest superhero; Captain Marvel. 

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

The Natural Soap Company Review and Trial

A selection of soaps from The Natural Soap Company
I've suffered with eczema for years and other skin conditions too, like sebhorric dermatitis, which effects the scalp. I don't want to gross anyone out, but I do want to give a bit of background as to why I decided to switch my shampoo for natural hair soap, and maybe give hope to fellow sufferers with my results. I've never officially been told what causes these conditions, but I've always felt that harsh hair products could be making it worse. This post offers a review of the products I bought from The Natural Soap Company, and how their shampoo bar helped improve my skin.

Monday, 4 March 2019

Over 50 Easy, Cheap World Book Day Costumes

Taken from above, hands holding the book Guess How Much I Love You.It's nearly World Book Day again and if you've got more than one child, a tight budget or not a lot of free time, you may be having a little panic about this. You don't need to worry though, because this list includes every simple, cheap World Book Day costume you could think of and there's bound to be one that will suit your expectant offspring. They may not be the most elaborate costumes, but they will get you out of trouble last minute, and can be made from items you probably already own. Just pick the one that fits what you have in the cupboards. Easy! 


Friday, 1 March 2019

Managing Long Term Chronic Pain - Course Notes Week 4

Title text over a faded out photo of a girl climbing on a wooden bar fence.Week 4 of The Pain Management course saw a few returners and a couple of absences, but I'm getting used to who everyone is, so it's much easier and more relaxed now. I was late, because the stupid bus didn't turn up, so I missed goal setting and recap from last week, which wasn't ideal, but everyone was welcoming and forgiving. I had previously warned them that the bus is hourly and not exactly reliable. Stagecoach, sort yourselves out! Anyway, this weeks theme was Sleep and, since I have a sleep disorder and already have a reputation for falling asleep in class, this should be interesting. 

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Half Term on a Budget with a Teen

Air balloon decorations above a shopping streetIt's becoming more of a challenge to find things to do with my son as he gets older, but it's also becoming more important. L is nearly thirteen and as such, he likes nothing more than to while away countless hours gaming or watching YouTube, as (he tells me) is perfectly normal at his age. As anyone who's got sucked into an angry thread on Facebook or hilarious parking videos on YouTube (that last one might be just me) it is too easy to sacrifice hours to the internet. So, I vowed to take decisive action this half term and do something appealing enough to drag a teen off the sofa every day, on a budget of under £50. For the whole week. That equates to just £10 per day and this is how we did it. 

Monday, 25 February 2019

Surviving a Cold, What Worked and What Didn't!

Head shot of lady with face obscured by large grey polo neck jumperBugs that arrive via our children, or air-conditioned virus-circulating offices, are always at their worst in winter. If I'm going to catch one, it is usually in that depressingly bleak lull between Christmas and Spring, when everything is particularly cold and miserable. This year's offering was especially unpleasant. Flu-maggedon hit our household like a ton of snot and I can genuinely say, it is the worst cold I've ever suffered. So, by way of explanation for my blogging absence and to help anyone else who gets it, here is a run down of how I survived the onslaught, what worked and where you can definitely save your hard-earned cash.

Friday, 22 February 2019

Tom Gates Live - Theatre Review Bristol Hippodrome

Animations from the Tom Gates series.
We are very lucky to be able to review the stage shows at the Bristol Hippodrome on a pretty regular basis and, having different aged children, we have seen a wide variety of shows over time. Nothing piqued my curiosity quite like Tom Gates Live on Stage, though. Having read the books to my son many times when he was younger, I couldn't help wondering how Liz Pichon's unique animation style would transfer to the stage. It turned out, however, the author herself was very much involved in the production and stamped her particular style all over it with gusto! This is our review of this brand new show from Birmingham Stage Company. Tickets were gifted in return for our thoughts on this production.

Friday, 25 January 2019

Getting Help with Home Adaptions for Disability

Title text over a faded out picture of a lady siting at a desk.
This is a difficult subject for a lot of people, as getting any kind of help with a problem flies in the face of the British 'stiff upper lip', 'make do and mend' philosophy. This means there is often a psychological barrier to getting help, as well as a physical one, when you don't know where to start or who to approach. In this post I hope to tackle both, looking at what aids and adaptations are available and who can help you get them, as well as dealing with the emotional side of taking the step to seeking and accepting help. If you are struggling at home, but are used to soldiering on, maybe it's time to think about some simple adaptations to make life easier. 


Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Managing Long Term Chronic Pain - Course Notes Week 3

Title text over a faded out photo of a girl climbing on a wooden bar fence.
This was my second attendance of the Pain Management course, which was week 3 of the 8 week programme. There were a few new members who I didn't recognise, because they had attended week 1 (which I didn't go to) and skipped week 2, which I did go to, but I guess a pain management course is going to be a bit hit and miss with attendance. It is advised to try to attend all parts of the course to get the most benefit, but it is a little bit flexible as going anywhere when you suffer from pain can be a struggle, particularly when it's a set time each week. This week's theme was Problem Solving.

Monday, 21 January 2019

Growing Old Gratefully - The Anti-Ageing Debate

A woman with long blond hair pictured from behind wearing a cream cardiganThere have been a few social media 'challenges' recently. The 10 Year Challenge, The Puberty Challenge and The Ageing Challenge. The first is fairly self-explanatory; you post a picture of yourself now and a picture of yourself ten years ago, to see how much you've changed. In the second, you post a photo of yourself now and one from your youth, to illustrate what puberty can do in terms of features, mood and fashion sense. The third is particularly brutal; you post your first ever social media pic, and your most recent, to see how much you've aged.  These are all variations on a theme and have been interpreted very differently by those taking part.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Managing Long Term Chronic Pain - Course Notes

Title text over a faded out photo of a girl climbing on a wooden bar fence.I have been suffering from a chronic pain condition for over 10 years now and I continue to fight it every day. I experiment with nutrition and exercise to keep the pain under control and always live in hope that one day it will go away altogether. I am an optimist. However, since seeing a rheumatologist last year, I've been informed that, medically speaking, there is nothing more that can be done and I'm stuck with it. I've now been referred to a Pain Management course and I thought maybe it would help other pain sufferers to hear what happens, so these are my notes on part one of a group therapy course designed to help sufferers cope with long term pain. 

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Motown the Musical - Bristol Hippodrome Review

Still of The Supremes in Motown the Musical, wearing beautiful pink dresses
Last night we attended the press night for Motown the Musical at the Bristol Hippodrome, so that we could tell you all about it. And what a show! If you've been here before, you will have noticed I do enjoy a good musical, but this was probably the most musical musical I've ever seen. The cast was large and there were amazing performances of every Motown singer I could think of. The costumes were stunning and the choreography perfect, but what I was not expecting was the immersive experience that transported the audience back to an emotional and scary time of racial division and tension. 

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Sensory Issues and Fussy Eating Phases - An Update

A hamburger in a bun, inside a circle featuring the title text.
In 2014, I wrote a post about my five year old son's struggles with food, with some ideas on how to tackle a similar situation, using everything I had learnt, along with some input from other bloggers who had faced similar situations. Last year, I edited it and reposted Top Ten Tips for Sensory Issues and Fussy Eating Phases, with a few updates based on what I had subsequently learned about sensory issues. Since then, things have continued to improve, and I thought it would be good to post an update, mainly to reassure other parents that it can get better, vegetables won't always be the food of the devil and scurvy won't take hold by the time they reach secondary school.  

Friday, 4 January 2019

Veganuary Inspiration and Recipes from Great Food Bloggers

A bowl of Vegan Ramen with chopsticks next to it.Since 2014, Veganuary has encouraged the nation to embrace Veganism and give up their meat and dairy consuming ways for the month of January. There is a world of reasons why people take up the Veganuary pledge at the start of the year. It might be because animals often suffer in the production of the foods we enjoy, it might be to ease the pressure on the environment from meat production, or even to support a New Year's resolution for a healthier lifestyle. Whatever the reason, if you have taken up the Veganuary pledge, and are already struggling for ideas, your Veganuary inspiration starts here.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Why New Year's Resolutions are So Last Year

Flat lay photo of a sheet of white paper on a white bag ground with a mug of coffee next to it. I've been having a long think about New Year's Resolutions. So long, in fact, that this post is a day late, but more on that later. My issue with resolutions is this; if you resolve to do something that you have previously failed at, are you setting yourself up to fail? It seems that so much emphasis is placed on resolutions; ie, what you intend to get right in the new year, that that you are almost obliged to come with something you are currently dissatisfied with. But do such public declarations of intended success ever end well? Particularly if you don't first address the reason you haven't previously achieved it?
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