I know, I know, a new home office chair – I spoil you with content don’t I? Give me a break though, it’s been over a year now of basically doing nothing expect reading murder mysteries, walking in laps around the park and working in my little study, so I don’t exactly have a lot to talk about.

Seriously though, a home office chair is actually pretty exciting news when you have been spending so much time working from home. If your job has shuffled you off into your spare room and working from home looks set to stay then you might want to read this and think about investing in your posture. (Maybe your boss might want to invest in your posture on your behalf and buy you a nice new office chair?)

Although I’ve been self-employed and generally working from home for 12 years now, I normally break things up with mornings in cafes, (under the guise of researching brunch club), or coworking spaces. Having to concentrate on work in the same space for large chunks at a time has been hard going. I gave my spare room a makeover in September, (see the ‘workpsace’ highlight on my Instagram), in a bid to create a more motivational workspace, and although I do love it, a lot of my time in here is actually spent in the little armchair in the corner reading magazines or, like this morning, sat at my desk taking stupid selfies.

I.e. wasting valuable time.

Office selfies

One of the issues, quite genuinely, was that I was too tight to invest in a decent home office chair. Since the makeover in September I’ve been sitting uncomfortably on a wooden dining chair which, although very stylish and ideal for dinner parties should anyone ever be allowed into my house again, lacks a certain something in the lumber support department.

As I mentioned on Instagram stories recently, when I told you about the pickled quail eggs, my manifestation powers have been strong lately, so it was barely a surprise when Summit At Home got in touch to ask if I would like to review a British manufactured ergonomic home office chair. ‘Well dur,’ I wanted to say, ‘what took you so long? I’ve been putting this out into the universe for ages?’

My first thought, obviously, was which colour to choose. View Post

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A little while ago I bought myself these cards that ask you questions, designed to make you think about yourself. I have a tendency with things like this to like the ‘idea’ more than the actual thinking. I knew that my instinct would be to flick through them all, thinking ‘oh yes, that’s a good question’, without taking proper time to actually answer it.

I promised myself that I would only turn one card over at a time, and that I wouldn’t turn over another until I had properly thought about the question. The first card I had was ‘What do I love most about myself?’ and the second was this one – ‘How do I show myself love?’ It’s been sat on my desk for over three weeks now, which shows I was right not to trust myself to get around to the thinking part very quickly.

How do I show love to myself?

I thought it was interesting that both of the first questions were about self-love. I don’t imagine the rest of pack is as generous, so it feels like the cards might be encouraging me to lay some good foundations.

I’ve thought about this question a lot over the last few weeks. I started off with answers like ‘I go for a walk’ or ‘I take time to read’, but they felt lame to be honest. I thought about the times when I’ve helped Belle with school work, encouraging her to go deeper, always telling her to ask ‘and what else?’ We can take the first answer that comes into our head, sure, or we can let that sit a little bit and then take another step in our thinking – and what else? Why do we do that? How does that mean that we are showing ourselves love?

I unpicked and unpicked in my head.

Okay, so I take the time to read because that’s something that I enjoy, it’s something that’s just for me, and it’s a way of making time for myself and prioritising myself. Better. So I show myself love by prioritising myself. What else? To prioritise myself I need to have good boundaries, I need to acknowledge that I am important, that actually I am the MOST important. Oooh… that’s a tricky one as a parent isn’t it? Can you really tell yourself you are the MOST important? You kind of have to don’t you? You can’t pour from an empty cup and all that?

So now I’m thinking about the things that get in the way of that, that make it hard for me to have boundaries, that stop me prioritising me, and do you know where I kept ending up? View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with HelloFresh

Cooking at home is wearing a bit thin isn’t it? A whole year of coronavirus, repeated lockdowns, and quite frankly if I never have to shop and cook for myself again it will be too soon. I just don’t want to have to think about meal planning, I don’t want to come up with new recipe ideas, my brain has run out.

Fortunately there are companies like HelloFresh ready to do the brainwork for me, who can take the time to create and put together new, interesting and healthy recipes and save me from another dinner of blue cheese and Frazzle sandwiches. (An actual lunch I ate.)

This week in our HelloFresh box we had sweet and sour chicken, really tasty halloumi tacos and pork chilli and bacon cheesy burritos with a zesty avocado black bean salad.

That’s the recipe I’m going to show you today.

pork chilli burritos HelloFresh

HelloFresh recipes come with exactly what you need – all of your ingredients in the right quantities, easy to follow recipe cards and no waste. For me that’s one of the things that normally puts me off trying new recipes – knowing that in a couple of months time I’m just going to be throwing away 7/8 of a jar of harissa paste. With HelloFresh you avoid this as they only send you exactly the right amounts. View Post

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YES. Yes I always make the same dating mistakes. Always. My last three boyfriends in a row have even had the same exact name. Clearly I have some habits I need to break. I asked dating coach Hayley Quinn to step in and write something for Slummy Single Mummy that would hopefully help me use lockdown as an excuse for a love life reset. 

How to avoid dating mistakes

Hayley Quinn – a woman who clearly knows how to take a profile picture

‘Do you think this is a red flag?!’

If your WhatsApp group chats frequently dissect your date’s every move…

If you’ve bookmarked blogs about dating narcissists…

If you’ve essentially lost all faith in your dating decision making: this blog is for you.

I’m dating coach Hayley Quinn and I’m moonlighting on Slummy Single Mummy’s blog to give you a simple message: you can change your dating mistakes and patterns. You are absolutely not destined to always be the one who has a “crazy” dating story to tell.  View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Eedi

Today I’ve teamed up with Eedi, the online maths support tool, to help you give your kids the confidence they need to thrive at maths. We’re also giving away a brand new iPad, so read on for more details!

 

I watched an interesting series of Instagram stories this morning from my friend Fritha all about maths. She was talking about the process of teaching her son, Wilf, maths at home and how it brought back traumatic memories of her own experiences of maths at school.

‘When Wilf started explaining the maths he is doing,’ said Fritha, ‘my head just said ‘I’m not good at this, I don’t understand.’ My brain just switches off and starts panicking. I was ‘top set’ throughout high school, largely because I had so many coping strategies to ensure I kept up, which involved lots of memorising. Because I got left behind somewhere in primary school though it was fully high stress, surviving and getting A grades but with no actual understanding of what I was doing. I basically had a breakdown during my last year of school and just wrote ‘x = 4′ for an entire paper.’

I wonder how many people this would resonate with when it comes to maths? That feeling of getting by under the radar, but without the real understanding or self-belief to thrive?

I know that I was lucky in that maths always came easily to me at school and I loved the buzz of new concepts slotting into place in my brain. As I got older though, through A-level maths, my degree and then actuarial training, there were definitely times where I felt lost and it was honestly terrifying. I would look at the page and genuinely just not have a clue what I was reading or how to make it make sense and it gave me, albeit later in life, an insight into how so many children must feel doing maths at school.

I actually taught maths one-to-one during university as a part-time job, and what I learned through that was that so much of maths is just about confidence, about overcoming that instinct where your brain starts to panic and believing that you can do it, that you can understand – it might just take some time or someone to explain it in a different way.

Ironically I didn’t seem to be able to transfer this to supporting my own children with their maths, and would often find myself frustrated, snapping at them – ‘just LOOK! It’s obvious!’ NOT helpful parenting at all.

If Eedi had been around when my children were younger I would have definitely signed up and spared us all my impatience.

Eedi is an online maths platform for children that really taps into that idea of confidence being key. It focuses on children in years 6, 7 and 8, where habits and beliefs about yourself and your abilities are really starting to solidify and where that extra confidence can have a real impact.

Children can choose to study any topic, at any level, at any time, whether it’s to do their homework, revise for tests or stay ahead by learning new topics. Over 100,000 children, parents and teachers use and trust Eedi and 98% of children say they feel more confident after just one lesson, which is an amazing statistic isn’t it?

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Nissan LEAF

‘I don’t know how to switch it on!’

‘I pressed the button.’

‘Is it on then?’

‘I don’t know, I can’t hear anything?’

It turns out that the Nissan LEAF was on, but that the whole thing about an electric car is that you can’t hear it. Dur. I mean I knew that, or I knew the theory of it, but I didn’t expect it to be so quiet that I literally couldn’t tell whether I’d switched it on or not. Even pulling away it had an eerie nothingness about it, as though we were on one of those little trains giving us a tour of a theme park. Or a milk float.

If you’ve not seen the Nissan LEAF before, here’s a short introduction: View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Tutorful

Every so often Belle gets a new THING. In the past these THINGS have taken the form of various musical instruments, workouts, crafts, hair care routines – essentially it’s just her having a go at something new. I think she feels like it’s a bit foolish, somehow a weakness to start things and drop them quickly, but I love it. I love that she decides to give something a go and whoosh, she’s all in, before you know it she’s spent £50 on an autoharp on eBay. I think ‘having a go’ is an admirable quality that more of us could do with embracing, and I never think she’s foolish.

(I am saying this partly thinking she might read it, but also because it’s true and I want her to know that I admire it about her.)

This month the thing has been the violin.

‘I’ve never touched a violin,’ she said one day when we were in the car, ‘so I thought it might be fun.’

Never touched a violin? I was slightly shocked. Surely touching a violin was just a thing that everyone has done? But then I remembered that my best friend in secondary school played the violin, a lot, and so perhaps my adolescent violin touching experiences weren’t standard. I mean, if you didn’t have a violin playing friend, when would you touch one?

Anyway, after some time where I was given a lecture about how as a parent I should have insisted Belle practice an instrument every day from age two, and that if only I hadn’t neglected my role she would be a musical genius by now, Belle decided that she was going to learn to play and she bought a violin.

Here it is:

find a violin tutor View Post

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This pork and cider casserole recipe post is brought to you in association with Thorner’s Farm Shop.

pork and apple and cider slow cooker casserole recipe

I don’t know about you but it feels to me like the further we get into this pandemic, the more my life revolves around food.

I’ve always been the sort of person who thinks about what they’re going to have for lunch while they’re eating breakfast, but when food shopping is pretty much the only sort of shopping you can do, and the days and weeks stretch ahead for miles, snacks become EVERYTHING.

Not that I’m complaining. I love eating, and not being able to eat out and get my brunch fix has meant I’ve spent more time trying new recipes and eating delicious things at home. Like last weekend for instance when I had a delivery from Thorner’s Farm Shop in Shepton Mallet and cooked a feast of slow cooker pork and cider casserole and pineapple cake with Malibu frosting. (You heard me.)

I’ve been a fan of Thorner’s since I discovered their award-winning pies recently, and I’ve had my love for them reinforced by the fact that the adorable deli that I walk to across the fields – Gaia Garden – has become a stockist.

Lovely walk through the countryside? Delightful! Pie to take home for dinner? Don’t mind if I do.

Thorner’s stock all kinds of things besides pies though, including an ever-expanding range of local meats. I wanted to showcase the variety of their online farm shop through this post, so in my weekend feast I used a fruit and a vegetable box, local cider, outdoor reared diced pork, local butter and eggs. I also had a very lovely Somerset wine – the Aldwick Estate Buteo – but I have to confess that this was so good that I drank it all before remembering to take a photo. Do go and check it out though. I recommend.

I was particularly impressed with the veg and fruit boxes. My fruit box for example included apples, satsumas, pears, bananas, a lemon and a lime, blueberries, grapes and a whole pineapple. (Hence the pineapple cake.) I think this is really good value for £9.99. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Foodhub

What have you missed most over the last 12 months? I’ve missed food, specifically someone else cooking for me. Belle cooks at home a couple of times a week, which I do really appreciate, but that still involves me helping her decide what she’s going to make, shopping for ingredients and clearing up after her.

Let’s just say it’s not exactly the stress-free restaurant experience.

What I really want is for someone to do everything – the planning, the choosing, the cooking and the washing up – as well as keeping my wine glass topped up. Oh and I want to be surrounded by witty and entertaining people. It’s not too much to ask is it?

The closest we can get at the moment is a takeaway. A takeaway at least takes care of the bulk of the work, leaving me just in charge of wine and Belle having to take on the role of ‘witty and entertaining company.’ She tries. She’s more entertaining than I’ve become in the last year for sure.

As an extended family we miss eating out together too. Pretty much all of our family occasions and celebrations would normally revolve around eating out and we’re notorious for arriving somewhere ‘just in time for lunch’. Lockdown has made it hard to make special occasions feel special – it’s hard to get that ‘treat’ vibe isn’t it?

One way we can still feel like we’re spoiling ourselves is by getting a takeaway and so this week I treated my Mum to a takeaway via Foodhub. View Post

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Advertisement feature – Mother’s Day with Moonpig

I count myself incredibly lucky that I have my Mum. She’s not perfect, nobody is, but the older I get and the more I come across people* who’ve not had good relationships with their mothers, or not had them around, the more I see how positive an impact she has had on me.

The key thing is that with both my Mum and Dad I’ve always felt loved, and I’ve always felt good enough. 

That sounds like such a simple thing, and I think I’ve taken it for granted over the years, but I was talking to my sister a while ago about it and we realised that a lot of people don’t have it. Lots of people feel like they’re constantly living up to some set of expectations or ideals, that they’ve disappointed their parents, or they feel obliged to follow a certain career or family path.

So I’m a very lucky woman. I’m lucky too that my Mum has been my support bubble during the virus and so I’ve been able to spend time with her. I do feel like I’ve run out of things to say a little bit, with nothing much else going on in life, but I know she doesn’t really mind if I just kind of sit there. It’s just nice to see different faces isn’t it?

Not everyone has their mum in their life but, even if you don’t, chances are there is someone who takes on that maternal role – an aunt, an older sister, a good friend – anyone who knows you well, who you love and trust, can be that mother figure for you, and wouldn’t it be nice to acknowledge that and show that person some love on Mother’s Day this year? We could all do with a bit of cheering up right now.

This is where Moonpig comes in.

While we might not be able to visit our loved ones in person, thanks to Moonpig you can still show someone you are thinking of them, whether that’s sending them a personalised Mother’s Day card, chocolates, or something a little fancier. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with AvaCare

They say life is about balance. A little of what you fancy, some moderate exercise, getting your vitamins, having a small glass of wine at the weekends. Fine, I get it. I even conducted a little experiment into balance, from which I can only conclude that I’m allowed six bourbons every I eat a satsuma.

AvaCare supplements review

You can’t argue with science guys.

But blimey, this last twelve months has been tough balancing act hasn’t it? For so many of us, the bigger picture balance wise means a night out with friends on Saturday after a week a work or a weekend away mid-winter to escape the monotony of the rain. It means jumping in the car on your day off and driving to the coast to paddle in the sea even though it’s freezing, just for the change of scene, just to FEEL.

So what does balance mean in a global pandemic? How do we take care of ourselves and maintain some semblance of sanity when the scales always seem to be weighed down on one side by homeschooling, homeworking, home bloody everything?

I guess when your life feels small, one thing you can do is to come down to its level and take care of the small things. The small things like eating well, getting enough sleep, trying not to become an alcoholic and getting outside just for half an hour, even if it is with your coat on over your pyjamas. (It’s leisurewear remember.) View Post

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What do you love most about yourself? That’s a good question isn’t it? Today I explore the idea and come up with three things which could be perceived as weaknesses, but that I consider strengths.

 

What with life being completely tedious lately, I’ve been struggling to think about things to write on my blog. I did the whole banana bread thing, then I did MINI banana breads… there’s not really anywhere to go after that is there?

‘Wow guess what guys? I sat about at home today! It was so inspiring!’

No.

Instead I thought perhaps the time had come to start thinking about STUFF. You know, STUFF. The inside bits, the big questions. My word of the year is SELF after all, and as this hasn’t been able to translate itself yet into spa days, maybe for now it needs to be a bit more introspective.

To spur me on, I bought a pack of ‘Questions to Empower‘ cards from Mål Paper. It’s 52 cards, each with a different question on it, designed to encourage self reflection. Perfect, just what I need to save me having to come up with original ideas. The cards arrived. I opened them. I gave them a shuffle and turned over the top card.

What do you love most about yourself?

‘What do I love most about myself?’

I felt relieved, like the cards were easing me in gently, because to be completely honest there are a lot of things I love about myself. I know the done thing if someone asks ‘what do you love most about yourself?’ is to point out your flaws and be secretly full of self loathing but I generally think I’m pretty great. I’m nearly 43, I’ve been a parent since I was 17, I’m kind, generous, smart, funny, modest… I’m a solid 9/10. (You have to keep something back otherwise you get lazy.)

I gave the question time to settle though, and mulled it over a bit. I wanted to think about some of the things I loved about myself that could be perceived by other people as flaws – the less obvious things that nonetheless make me who I am. Here are a few of the things that I came up with. View Post

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