Saturday, 12 December 2020

The Ultimate Independent Small Business Gift Guide

Hands tying a ribbon onto a circular gift box
This gift guide is entirely unsponsored and features a combination of small, independent businesses that I have used myself and small independent businesses that have been recommended to me. I hope it provides a useful resource for anyone wanting to support small businesses and #BuyLocal. There are a number of reasons to choose independent businesses, including supporting the economy and helping to create a more diverse marketplace. It's also nice to buy from someone who is really going to get a warm feeling from someone using their service. There are no pictures, to keep it fair to all the businesses and because this took forever to produce and I really wanted to get it out before Christmas! 

Thursday, 10 December 2020

Mindscreen Experience Raising Self Confidence in Children - Part 3

In the foreground, a drinking glass with water in it and a long, thin green leaf and, in the background, a laptop featuring the Mindscreen logo
 We've come to the end of our Mindscreen Experience and we wanted to share one last update with our progress and thoughts on how it went. In case you haven't caught up with Looking After Children's Mental Health with Mindscreen and Review of the Mindscreen Experience Part 2, I've been taking part in a review of the Mindscreen Experience program with my teenage son. Mindscreen provides a toolkit of resources to enable you to measure and improve your child's self-confidence, by helping you work together to find out how they feel now and guiding you through lesson plans and worksheets to improve their self-esteem and self-confidence. 

Friday, 27 November 2020

Amazing Gift Ideas for Teens and Tweens


Teens and tweens are one of the hardest groups to buy for. These days it's worse, because they are mostly involved with tablets and smartphones, so what do you buy for them that won't last five minutes before they get bored with it and it potentially ends up in landfill? To avoid having to resort to money or vouchers, this year I've used all my experience raising teens and tweens to come up with some great suggestions. I've got together some amazing gift ideas from Buzz Beauty and Buzz Retail to help you out this Christmas with some entertaining gifts that teens and tweens will love. I have not been paid for this post, but I did receive free products, chosen by me, so that I could review them properly and take photographs. 

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

10 Easy Ways to Relax in Just 10 Minutes

A lady in silhouette from behind in a cross legged yoga pose
 When we entered lockdown back in March, everyone talked about having so much free time, but this wasn't the case for everyone. We might have been home more, but educating children, working from home, and other new unforeseen demands all meant that for some, life never really slowed down. Now we're back in another lockdown, and it's worse because many are still at work, but the kids are getting sent home for isolation, so there's that, Christmas needs preparing for, with pressure to make this Christmas special to make up for the rubbish year (especially for me, because my son's birthday was the first day of the first lockdown and it sucked!) and it's all so stressful!! Here are ten ways to relax in just ten minutes. I'll be over here, under a blanket.

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Five Fun Long Distance Lockdown Date Ideas


“If the two halves of a couple are currently in separate households, ideally they should stay in those  households… for quite a significant period going forwards, they should test the strength of their relationship and decide whether one wishes to be permanently resident in another household.” This was Dr Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, answer to a question on whether couples who lived apart could socialise under new restrictions. My heart sank when I heard her answer, not for us, but for the couples who are just starting out, who might still be showing their best side only, not daring to fart in front of the other and now their very new, shiny relationship is about to hit a mountain size road bump, completely out of their control.

Monday, 16 November 2020

How to Make this Christmas Extra Special


The top half of a Christmas gift wrapped in gold paper with a bow
This year more people than ever are finding themselves separated for long periods and long-distance relationships are becoming unavoidable. This means that Christmas shopping habits may be a little different, with the focus on items that are digital or easy to post. It's easy to think that Christmas will be less of an occasion this year, because of all the restrictions in place, but I hope it can be an opportunity to do things a little differently and embrace traditions that have been lost to commercialism over the years. If there's one thing this year has taught us, it's that we have a lot to be thankful for and we can often make the best of our situation and find joy in the small things. Here are some ideas to make Christmas extra special this year, despite what December has to throw at us! 

Win a Samsung 50 Inch Smart TV in the Big Blog Giveaway


Friday, 13 November 2020

Four Tips to Thrive with Chronic Illness


A silhouette of a lady with a ppony tail from the side, with dark trees behind the image
Today I am welcoming guest poster Patti Kaye to the blog, to talk about living with Chronic Illness. She  has been a huge inspiration to me and is just an all-round lovely person, so I hope she can inspire you too, whether you live with a chronic illness yourself, or know someone who does and want to learn more about it. She lives in British Columbia, Canada and has lived with the effects of MS for twelve years. Whilst this caused her to have to give up her teaching job and was devasting at the time, she has resolved to approach life in as optimistic and high spirited way as she can, which I think is a brilliant outlook to have and something I really aspire to do myself. 

Tuesday, 10 November 2020

Review of the Mindscreen Experience for Children Part 2

A laptop with a plant in front of it, with the title overlaid
In my first review of the Mindscreen Experience Toolkit, I covered my first impressions of the site and my thoughts on the early stages of the Mindscreen process. Today, I'm going to cover the first four sessions, including the lesson plans and organisation of the program. All opinions are my own and based on our experience. The lessons are not long, or difficult, but my son is 14 and generally allergic to anything that resembles learning or education, so he is not the most willing of subjects, but there is lots of guidance to help with keeping children motivated in the parent guides and I've included some tips to get your unwilling participants participating fully in the activities.  

Saturday, 7 November 2020

Inexpensive Chidren's Bedroom Ideas

A big financial challenge when raising children is keeping up with their interests and, dare I say it, 'fads'. It's not unreasonable to expect a child to go through their interests quite quickly, as they change from being little children to almost-adults in a few short years. There's a lot of pressure from their peers, too, so subjects that were once everything to them can suddenly seem babyish and uncool. So how do you create a bedroom that will stand the test of time without needing completely revamping every time they go through a new phase? Having raised a couple of teenagers now, I've put together some inexpensive children's bedroom ideas to keep things current without breaking the budget or creating a lot of work for yourself. 

Thursday, 5 November 2020

The Best Family Video Games to Play Together

Video game controller in the hands of a boy wearing a gaming tshirt, you can only see his torso
Video games were never a big deal when my daughter was small, she was never really interested, so I wasn't introduced to video games in any great abundance until my son was old enough to get involved. Now, like many parents, I worry about the effect they might have and how long he should be spending on them. Although I've written about my thoughts on Fortnite, I am by no means an expert, but I do happen to know one. There follows a guest post from Andy Robertson, author of the Taming Gaming book for parents and video game journalist, who gives a brilliant insight into the positives of video games for children and the best family video games to play together.

Thursday, 22 October 2020

Looking After Children's Mental Health with Mindscreen

A laptop with a plant in front of it, with the title overlaid
I was approached by the lovely team at Mindscreen to ask if I would review their Mindscreen Experience Toolkit, which helps parents learn more about their children's mental health and how to support them. I was very excited about this prospect, as it's no secret that mental health is a massive issue for children and young people today and, as parents, it can be really worrying. There are more outside influences than ever before in our children's lives and most are not easily accessible to us. Technology constantly advances and throws up new potential threats with each new app or chatroom and the pace of life and demands on our kids can seem relentless, so I am right behind any tool that helps parents navigate those tricky teenage years. 

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

How I Cut My Bills by £130 a Month

Last year, I decided to overhaul my finances to see if I could save some money each month. I felt that I wasn't fully in control of what I was spending and it was too easy to use my debit card without really thinking about my outgoings overall. Along the way, I found out a lot about why my spending was higher than it should have been and some great ideas to get better control of the monthly bills. As times are hard for a lot of people right now, I thought I would share how I did it, in the hopes it helps someone else avoid the same traps I fell into and save some money too. The first and most important step I took towards getting better control of my spending, was to get a banking app on my phone. 

Sunday, 27 September 2020

20 Ways to Personalise a Rental Home

When my daughter was small, I lived in private rental properties for six years. During that time, three landlords wanted to change the use of the property, so I had to move, which threw up a couple of problems. When you rent privately in the UK, you quickly learn that everything you buy has to be removable, as you could have to leave with a couple of months notice. You also find out that it takes a lot of imagination to make your house a home, as landlords don't like you drilling holes or messing with the decor. Here are 20 ways to personalise your rental space, without spending a fortune or annoying the property owner when it comes time to compare landlord insurance.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Understanding the History and Basics of Reverse Mortgage

A tiny house, with a key next to it
The chances of you coming across the term “reverse mortgage” may be high. However, do you knowwhat this term is and how it works? Not everyone has access to in-depth research on this subject matter. You may or may not find this area useful at the moment, depending on how close you are to retirement. Nevertheless, it is worth understanding this financial opportunity as it may come in handy for you or a close relative. A reverse mortgage is the financial safety net any retiree, who is also a homeowner, needs. 

Guest Post Collaboration with All Reverse Mortgage Inc.

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

17 Ideas to Help You Relax

A lady with long brown hair and a white gown sitting up in bed reading a book
We're fully in the swing of work and school now and it's surprising how quickly normal routines kick in and you almost forget about that weird six-month blip where the world just sort of stopped. It's hard to believe it's possible for the whole of society to just grind to a halt, but it did and now we're all trying to find our way back into some kind of normality. One thing I have really noticed since all this crazy Lockdown business started is how important relaxation is. We've been through some pretty stressful stuff, but going back to work is stressful in itself and I've found myself quickly falling into the old pattern of not fully relaxing because there are always more things I could be doing. 

Friday, 18 September 2020

Finding the Best Childcare in your Area, with

There are certain advantages to having a ten year gap between your children and one of them is that, by the time your youngest is school age, you have a ready and (for the right price) willing, babysitter. A large age gap between children doesn't suit everyone, but it was a win-win in our family because my eldest learned skills that she then used to secure more babysitting work, which gave her an income and experience while she was still at school and I never had to find someone to watch my youngest if I needed to go out at short notice, or if my work commitments changed. 

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Five Cheap Easy Meals to Teach your Child for University

 Sending your children off to University is a very strange time. As parents, it's in the job description to try to raise confident, healthy, happy people, who can make their own way in the world and be successful. Then the time comes for them to do just that and it's suddenly a bit nerve-wracking. It comes around so quick, it's easy to forget they've become adults, while we haven't been concentrating. One of the biggest concerns for parents is whether or not their offspring might starve, or become very unhealthy, due to a mix of ineptitude and laziness, so here are the five meals I taught my daughter to make before she went to university, they're cheap and easy, so will suit every budget and motivation level! 


Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Antique Jewellery - Why and How to Buy It

A garnet necklace and earrings faded out, with the title over the top
A hot topic right now is fast fashion; cheap clothes which may be a bargain but don't last very long and have to be frequently replaced. This is obviously not good for the environment, as the cast-offs often end up in landfill, but have you ever considered that the same can apply to jewellery? When I decluttered to make my office space recently, I was surprised at how much of my jewellery had quickly become tarnished and unwearable, because it was made from cheap metal. Cheap metal goes from shiny to shoddy very quickly and often has a limited lifespan. Here's how you can look for quality when you buy a piece of jewellery and how antique jewellery, such as the collections you can find at Carus Jewellery, could be the answer to sustainability. 

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Creating my Small Space Home Office

An office chair faded out, with the title text over the top
I had to take a long break from 'serious' blogging, due to ill health and a certain global virus that has turned everyone's lives upside down, one way or another. In many respects, the enforced break did me good, and I've come back with a renewed determination to make the most of my little slice of the internet. So, I did something I'd been talking about for years, I set up a home office. The fun part was, I had zero available space in my little house, but I wasn't going to let that stop me. Here's how I got creative and created a quiet, comfortable working environment, without taking any space from the room layouts I already had. 

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Creativity and Family Life

A child's hand colouring a picture of a cat, with the title Creativity and Family LifeWhen you first become a parent, no one tells you how arty you suddenly have to be. For some people, this isn't necessarily a problem, but for others, the creative juices can be a little less forthcoming. One theory is that the creative side of the brain is more dominant in some people than others, which leads a proportion of us to relish creative tasks, whilst the rest run screaming for the hills at the merest glimpse of a Pritt stick. No matter how hard you try to avoid messy creative tasks, it becomes much harder once the children start school. It's not just the homework and the art projects, it's the party invites, cards for relatives and endless competitive dress-up days, to name but a few.

Thursday, 20 August 2020

Little Lifts: 9 Easy Ways to Boost your Mood

A ring of pastel coloured flowers, containing the title text 9 Ways to Boost Your Mood. I don't want to state the obvious here, but the last few months have been really tough for lots of people for all sorts of reasons. It has become harder for even the most upbeat personality to stay positive and anxiety and low mood have become a lot more common and harder to shake off. It may not be possible to do the things you normally do to make yourself feel better at the moment, so here are my favourite ways to lift a low mood, within the confines of your own home. I hope they help you too when you're feeling down and please feel free to add your own tried and tested mood lifters in the comments.

Friday, 14 August 2020

Top Tips for Choosing your Indoor Furniture

White table and chairs with title overlaid.Choosing indoor furniture should be a fun and exciting activity, but for many, it can prove to be a nightmare. There are many different aspects to consider when selecting furniture, such as comfort, style, size and colour, so it's unsurprising that many rows take place around buying the perfect sofa or dining set. New furniture can completely transform a room, so it is worth taking time to get it right, but if it's not something you find easy, there is a lot you can do to make choosing furniture a more enjoyable experience.  At Rattan Garden Furniture Ltd. our design experts would like to share with you when and how to invest in indoor furniture, whether it's for dining or leisure. 

Friday, 17 July 2020

When Your Child Hates School

Child in school uniform looking down at the floor sadlyNot all children like going to school for a number of reasons, such as; separation anxiety, not enjoying certain lessons, not appreciating some of their teacher's methods or even just objecting to following someone else's rules! If any of those descriptions applies to your child, or even if you have one of those children who are generally fine with school and loves it once they get there, but you still have endless problems getting them to go, then this may interest you. Many children go through phases of hating school and I've put together this guide with some ideas to help if your child is reluctant to go to school, based on my own, and other parents' experiences.


Monday, 13 July 2020

Win a £100 Amazon Voucher in our Amazing Giveaway!

Everything has gone a bit bonkers since the lockdown started. Routines are up the spout, timetables are out the window and even blogging, for me at least, has had to take a back seat whilst I try to hang onto my sanity in the hellscape that is 'encouraging' a teenager to do his schoolwork. I won't call it homeschooling, because, honestly, who gets KS4 maths enough to actually teach it?! What I do know is that everyone is finding their own ways to cope and get the best out of this unusual lifestyle that we've all had to adopt. With this in mind, I've joined up with some brilliant fellow bloggers to bring you a giveaway to win a £100 Amazon voucher. Treat yourself, or someone you love and bring a smile to your day. There are lots of entries, but you can do as many or as few as you like and you might find if you've done Rafflecopter giveaways in the past, that you already follow a lot of us so it won't take as long as you think. Good luck!

Friday, 5 June 2020

The Lockdown Birthday Cake Disaster of 2020

This is a story from a while ago, right at the start of Lockdown, on the very the first day that the schools were closed way back in March. With all the craziness that's been happening, I've only just got around to sitting down to write about it. This is the story of my son's lockdown birthday, which began with the greatest birthday gift he could have received, the closing of his school on his birthday, and went very much downhill from there. But doom and gloom have no place in a world where there are so many ways things could be worse, so read on to find out how we made the best of it all.


Thursday, 2 April 2020

Home Beauty Treatments and Remedies - Tried and Tested

Pile of assorted lemons, one sliced, four whole, with text above the image.
All the beauty treatments included in this post can be made using ingredients you probably already have in the cupboard and I've tried most of them, so I know they work. Beauty treatments are a great way to relax and enjoy some me-time and that's something we could all benefit from at the moment. I've also included some remedies for common skin complaints, which could be really handy since it's hard to shop for beauty supplies right now. There is no reason not to look your best, even if you can't go out, it might be just what you need to lift your spirits and you could even rope in other family members to join you in some of the treatments too. 


Wednesday, 25 March 2020

50 Fun Activities for Families in Isolation

Normal life naturally inclines us to spend some time apart from our nearest and dearest but now, in the midst of the Covid - 19 Coronavirus pandemic, we are suddenly required to spend all our time together. It's an anxious time for many and keeping busy is going to be paramount for our mental and physical wellbeing during this period of social distancing and isolation. It's not always easy to come up with ideas to amuse a whole household every day, so I've compiled a list of activities to distract and amuse in these challenging times. You could work through the list for fifty days, or just scroll down to the ones that interest you.

Saturday, 29 February 2020

This Country Book Signing and More About the Show

Two copies of the book This Country with the title overlaid Last weekend, Jade and I ventured into Bristol for a very exciting event. We have been fans of This Country since it first began and have really enjoyed following the characters as they've made their way through various adventures and disasters in their small village community. I was unaware that there was a book signing with the stars of the show and was amazed when Jade surprised me with tickets to attend last Sunday. It was a really enjoyable experience and I thought I would write a bit about the show, for the uninitiated, and what it was like meeting Charlie and Daisy May Cooper, who star as Kerry and Kurtan Mucklowe.

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