Over the last few weeks, two buckets have appeared, separately, in my front garden.

The first was a rather fancy Avengers bucket. The second, a couple of weeks later, was more of a traditional seaside style – a castle shape in a jaunty blue, set off with a contrasting yellow handle. Neither belonged to me and neither have been claimed.

lost bucket

What I really want to understand is the HOW and the WHY of this bucket situation.

I’m a good 20 miles away from the nearest beach, and I don’t live near a park or sandpit, so what is a bucket doing near my front garden in the first place? How does a bucket arrive in a quiet, residential cul-de-sac unless it is brought there by a specific person for a specific purpose?

With this in mind, at what point do you LOSE your bucket in said quiet residential cul-de-sac and NOT NOTICE? Would you be walking along, carrying a bucket, drop it on the floor and not realise? Or perhaps you DO realise, but you can’t be bothered to pick it up?

‘Ah well,’ you think to yourself, sighing heavily, ‘that was a nice bucket while it lasted, but it’s not worth bending down for.’ View Post

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I’ve lived in a lot of houses in my life.

*pause while I count*

I think it’s 25? Maybe. Anyway, it’s quite a few. For me then, a home isn’t somewhere I’ve lived in all my life. It’s not somewhere I grew up, somewhere I can walk around and say ‘that’s where I tripped over the cat when I was seven and had to have stitches.’

It’s not something that’s special because it’s full of memories created over decades, so what is it? What’s that elusive thing that makes any house a home, regardless of how long you’ve been there?

It’s the people in it, of course, we’ll take that as a given, but what else? It’s the stuff I guess. The things you surround yourself with that maybe you have grown up with over decades, dragging them with you from one house to the next.

For me, it’s pictures and plants.

I can move anywhere, to any style of house, and it only feels like a home to me when I fill it with my plants and hang pictures on the walls. I have a lot of plants, and although some of them are just there to make the space look pretty, many of them have a lot of meaning, like Belle’s apple tree, which is now in the ground and quite a bit bigger than in this post.

I have one peace lily for example that I bought when Bee was very small as one of my first ever plants. It was tiny, like her, when I first brought it home from the supermarket, and now, over 20 years later, it fills a huge wicker plant pot in the corner of my bedroom.

I’ve loved watching my Swiss cheese plants thrive over the last few years, and my avocado plant, successfully grown from an avocado stone on about my eight attempt, reminds me not to give up on things, even if they don’t work out the first seven times.

Swiss cheese plant View Post

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When you read the words ‘protection products during coronavirus’ you probably think face masks right? Or maybe one of those snazzy plastic visors that makes you look like Jennifer Beals in Flashdance? (The welding bits, not the exotic dancing.)

That’s not what I’m talking about today.

(Sorry Flashdance fans.)

I’m talking about financial protection products like life insurance, critical illness cover, that sort of thing – insurance products that protect you financially when the worst happens. I mean I guess you could print out a copy of your insurance certificate and try and fashion it into some kind of face covering but it’s really not the same thing.

Can I get life insurance to cover coronavirus

Pretty sure Jennifer Beals didn’t have a beard but you get the idea

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brunch club

It was sad timing for me that just when I discovered my true life calling – brunch – the world was overtaken by a deadly pandemic and all of the cafes and restaurants shut down. No sooner had I recreated the banana bread at the Kitchen at Jordan’s Courtyard* than the world went mad and even getting hold of a bag of flour became like completing a room in the Aztec Zone on the Crystal Maze.

Just my luck, as Adrian Mole would say.

There’s something about brunch, as a concept, that means it’s just not the same when you make it at home. At home it becomes more of a ‘blimey it’s 11am and I still haven’t had breakfast’ kind of a meal. It’s not decadent like it is when you go out for brunch, it’s more a symptom of an inefficient morning.

I blame a lack of brunch, in part at least, for my emotional decline during lockdown, resulting in a rather embarrassing panic attack in the bin liner aisle of Sainsbury’s last week and a worrying obsession with ticks. I’m losing my grip, and so to reconnect with reality, with my One True Purpose, I decided to go all out today on a homemade brunch.

I decided to make Boston Tea Party sweetcorn fritters. View Post

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Every family has a much repeated story about a wasp sting don’t they? Ours is from a family holiday about 15 years ago, probably Devon or Cornwall. It was one morning, mid-holiday and unbeknown to Bee a wasp was ‘resting’ in her trousers, which had been left on the floor. When she put them on the wasp stung her twice on the bottom.

She was not happy.

The rest of the day was spent not, as planned, enjoying a round of crazy golf and a Mr Whippy, but instead sitting about inside our holiday cottage while Bee lay prostrate on the sofa, bottom in the air.

If only Bite Away had been invented then!

Bite Away review

Although at first glance it looks like it might be a high-tech pregnancy test, Bite Away is actually a chemical free heat treatment for insect bites and stings. It works by applying concentrated heat to the affected area – 51 degrees of heat to be exact – for either three or six seconds depending on how sensitive a person/an area it is. View Post

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When I made my list of 50 things I wanted to do before I was 50, I rather ambitiously included ‘visit every country in Europe’. It was pre-Brexit, and pre-global pandemic, and life seemed somehow much more straightforward, like I’d just be able to pop over to a European city every weekend if I felt like it.

I also didn’t really appreciate quite how many countries there actually are in Europe. How many do you reckon? 30 or so maybe?

Nope.

There are 44 countries in Europe currently recognised by the UN, according to a quick Google, although more if you include states? It’s a bit confusing. It’s a lot basically. A lot of mini breaks.

Some of them I’ve been to already, which is great, I can get some ticks in the boxes, but others I hadn’t even really considered, like Monaco. Monaco is the second smallest country in the world, second only to the Vatican City, so I suppose it’s not surprising that it went under my radar a bit. I know it vaguely from the Grand Prix, the gambling and the tax haven status, but I can’t say I’d given it a great deal of thought otherwise.

Still, I’ll have to visit if I’m going to complete the challenge, so I decided to find out a bit more about what Monaco is all about and what a holiday in Monaco might look like.

Holiday in Monaco View Post

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I have to admit that after the whole car dashboard/satsuma incident, which resulted in my car refusing to turn left at a junction one day, despite my best efforts with the steering wheel, I was pretty nervous about owning my own house. It’s probably one of the main reasons why until buying our house three years ago, I’d always rented. You know where you are with renting – you avoid too much blutac and keep the lawn vaguely under control and in return you absolve yourself of all responsibility for anything relating to drains, electrics or plumbing. Easy.

Despite managing to navigate my way through a leaky roof last year, (by going and knocking on the door of a maintenance man around the corner whose van I’d seen parked outside his house), I haven’t yet got that confidence about me that means I’m happy casually calling up a plumber. For a start, how do you know if they’re a good one? And then how do you know if they’re giving you a good price and good advice if all you’ve ever had to do in the past is call your letting agent and then be on hand to let someone in and make them a cup of tea? How much do plumbers even cost?

Plumbers scare me is what I think I’m basically saying, which is a bit pathetic and I’m not proud of myself as a 42 year old woman, but there we go. The facts remain.

When rusty coloured water started appearing in a small puddle underneath my kitchen radiator at the end of last year then, my first instinct obviously was to reach for the fruit bowl and strategically place a satsuma. Unfortunately there wasn’t anywhere obvious to put a piece of fruit that would cover up the problem, so instead I chose just to wipe up the splotch every time I noticed it and pretend nothing was happening.

This worked for a time, until the more rusty water I wiped away the more I had to accept that I needed to do something more responsible. I started Googling ‘rusty radiator water leak’ and came up with all kinds of horrendous scenarios that involved pipes bursting spontaneously. I imagined myself innocently cooking dinner and listening to The Archers, only to find myself drenched in foul radiator water with bits of metal piping embedded in the walls.

I did what any sensible grown up would do – I turned the radiator off and condemned myself to cooking forever in a cold kitchen.

Plumb Doctor Live review

The offending radiator, looking so innocent…

Two months later and cue Plumb Doctor Live, enter stage left. View Post

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Have you had to cancel a summer holiday this year?

I have, and it’s not fun. I’ve pretty much stopped looking at my calendar at all because the days and days stretching ahead with nothing to look forward to are a bit much sometimes.

Perhaps you’re looking on the bright side – at least you won’t have to have to spend hours in the car with kids who apparently have bladders the size of actual peas, and you can save some money at least, including on all those extras like endless ice creams, all the overpriced cocktails you have to buy to make a holiday with kids bearable, and litres of sunscreen.

HOLD UP THOUGH. Not so fast.

Just because you’re not going on a summer holiday doesn’t mean you’re off the hook with the sun protection. I know it can feel like we don’t need it most of the time in the UK but that’s just not the case. More people in the UK are now killed by skin cancer than in Australia, and a scary 60% of us damaged our skin in the sun just last year. (Statistic from 2019 SunSense survey.)

That’s not cool is it? Especially when according the Cancer Research UK, 86% of melanoma skin cancers cases in the UK are preventable. Just by regularly using a high SPF 50+ sunscreen you can reduce your chances of developing the disease.

To help us all stay safe in the sun, we’ve been trying out the range of sunscreens from SunSense, an iconic Australian sunscreen brand that’s been a favourite with Australians for over 30 years.

SunSense sunscreen for kids

Those chubby little fingers!

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untold stories slummy single mummy

I feel like Untold Stories has been pretty sad lately – the woman who regrets having children and the new mother who hates her husband – it’s perhaps a bit heavy going right now isn’t it? I do want this feature to be a place of honesty, but I’m tempering it a little today with a story that blends authenticity with positivity. Becoming a parent can be shocking and difficult and exhausting but also wonderful and surprising and beautiful. Today I’m celebrating both sides. Get in touch if you have a story you’d like to share anonymously.

By Anon

When my baby is seven months old and I am starting to emerge, blinking, into the daylight, I go for lunch with a work friend who has a toddler.

“How have you found it?” she asks, innocently.

My only reply is a wide-eyed stare.

“I know,” she says, nodding sagely.

Nobody tells you what sublime bliss and utter tyranny it is to have a baby. Parents apparently take a vow of silence about the total surrender that comes with the territory. Through school, university, work, we are taught to analyse, to be rational, to put things in order. Then babies come along and don’t so much challenge your now hard-wired rationality as throw it out the window and stamp on it, chuckling gummily.

Pregnancy is a good preparation. Suffer from hayfever? Tough, you can’t take antihistamines. Stay indoors. Chest infection? Mmm, better if you can muddle through on honey and lemon. Used to rushing about town in a constant whirl of activity? Two words: slow down. Your body will give you no choice.

Towards the end, I felt like my body was turning inside out. I had expected my baby to be like me: early or on time to all appointments. Instead, she was lingering cosily, and my body was protesting in every way it knew how. View Post

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Hands up who’s bored of staying at home pretending that they’re living their best life making sourdough and enjoying the slower pace of life?

*waves hand wildly*

It’s getting kind of tedious isn’t it? I know, saving lives and all that, I’m not about to start an illegal rave, but I do miss full contact brunch. Still, it has to be done, and probably for a while yet, so in the meantime I’ve pulled together a load of things to do online that are fun and free. It’s not like the post I wrote the other day suggesting you learn a language or get a skip bag or anything, these are all purely for time wasting or purely joyous purposes.

PLUS…

Read to the end of this post, or skip there now if you’re really that fed up, and there’s the chance to win a £50 Amazon voucher! (I nearly included ‘evaluate your Amazon wish list’ as one of the items, but I assume that was the first thing EVERYONE did? It’s certainly something I’ve spent a lot of time on.)

Play board games online with friends

We’ve had a bash at playing some games with family via Zoom, but it can be a bit fiddly if you’re all trying to keep track of your own Monopoly board. Instead, try something like Tabletopia for board games that you can play virtually.

Go to the theatre

National Theatre is showing a full length play every week during lockdown via YouTube, and they’ve had some absolutely cracking stuff on so far. This week it’s Gillian Anderson in A Streetcar Named Desire. Now’s your chance to get all fancy and cultured – no one needs to know you saw them at home in your pyjamas.

Enter some competitions

Totally free and who knows, you could end up with a new car or even a year’s supply of Weetabix! The thrill of winning a competition is rarely proportionate to the prize in my experience – having the winning ticket in the village fete raffle is an absolute buzz, even if you do just win an Old Spice gift set.

If you’re not normally a comper, check out Competition Finder as a great starting place for finding and entering competitions.

Learn how to take a dramatic portrait shot of your pet

Dramatic pet portrait photography is just one of the many, many online courses available at Skill Share, amongst other treats such as ‘how to create the ultimate donut flat lay.’ Skill Share is a paid service, offering easy to follow lessons in all kinds of creative subjects, but there’s a decent free trial if you just fancy giving one or two things a go.

how to take a picture of your pet View Post

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I’m still going through massive emotional lockdown ups and downs. Occasionally I do something really annoyingly motivated, like when I signed up recently to start that interior design degree*, but most of the time, as you can see from the frequency of my blog posts, I’m just sort of semi-reclined, reading Poirot books and eating bags of Maryland mini cookies.

(Only 99 calories a bag you know. What do you mean ‘but you ate four bags’? How rude.)

If you DO want something to do during lockdown though, then I’ve pulled together a few ideas for you based on what it feels like a solid half of Instagram is doing right now. (Which probably means no one is actually doing it in real life.)

These are JUST IDEAS though. It’s totally okay if you prefer the Poirot/cookie scenario, or just want to kick back with a puzzle. No one is judging you. It’s a weird time for sure.

Take the couch to 5k challenge

I’m delighted to report that so far no one has tagged me in anything suggesting I run 5k for the NHS. Either these means I have no friends, or that all of my friends know me better than to suggest I run ANYWHERE. Even regular readers should know that running is definitely not my thing, as evidenced here by my own couch to 5k photo collage.

I know everyone says that after a while you start to get a buzz from running, but after completing the whole programme and I can say with absolutely certainty that at no point did I enjoy it at all in any way. The entire time I was ‘running’ my internal monologue was basically ‘this is hell, make it stop, why are you doing this, it’s awful, surely I’ve been going for 20 minutes by now, let’s check the app because surely it should have beeped by now and maybe it’s broken, oh no it’s only been four minutes, this is awful, please save me, help.’

But sure, have a go if that’s your thing. View Post

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I’ve got Jon from The Money Shed here again today blabbering on about Bonus Accumulator. I honestly don’t know what he talks about most of the time but I know a lot of people find his articles on matched betting and earning money online really useful, plus he’s stuck at home without his usual time out with a bottomless coffee in Wetherspoons, feeling sorry for himself, so here he is.

If youve been working from home or earning on the side for a while, then youve probably heard of matched betting. If not, matched betting is a risk-free strategy that allows you to turn bookmaker bonuses into withdrawable cash.

Matched betting has been around for years but received mainstream attention when Sam Stoffel released a membership-based service called Profit Accumulator. For a small monthly subscription fee, users were able to log in and be told exactly what bookmaker bonuses were available at any given time and given a step-by-step guide to guaranteeing a profit from them.

Profit Accumulator is still going strong but what theyre best known for is making the whole process easy for anyone to take part in.

The exciting news for long-term matched bettors and newcomers looking to make money online from home is that Sam Stoffel is back with a new product called Bonus Accumulator thats sure to keep the profit rolling in on a monthly basis.

What is Bonus Accumulator?

Bonus Accumulator is different to Profit Accumulator because it focuses on casino and bingo promotions as opposed to sports betting. View Post

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