This is a paid advertorial with Tesco

Today I’m putting Tesco Clubcard Plus to the test to see just how easy it is to save money on your supermarket shopping. With Tesco Clubcard Plus you can save up to £40* on your in-store grocery shop and 10% on selected Tesco brands, including clothing and homeware. Read on to find out how it works.

 

There were a lot of things I liked about the early days of lockdown.

I liked not having to GO anywhere and then not feeling like you were missing out because you knew that everyone else was just at home making banana bread and watching reruns of Rosemary and Thyme too. (That wasn’t just me right?)

I liked having a break from work without that feeling of ‘oh but I should really be doing x, y and z’. Although I do love the flexibility of being self-employed and wouldn’t swap it, there’s a lot to be said for the paid holiday that comes with a regular job. I got a lovely tan in the first month of lockdown and read more books than I had in the whole year before that.

I also liked not spending money. Some friends have said they actually ended up spending more because of shopping online, but I don’t do so much of that. Most of my spending outside regular bills is going out related – days out, coffees, lunches and dinners in restaurants – and overnight this just stopped. It sucked that my work took such a down turn and that I didn’t qualify for any government support, but once I’d got things like the mortgage payment holiday in place, I found that my drop in spending was enough to mean I could tick over. Hence the tan.

I know that I could just not spend that money, lockdown or not, but it doesn’t really work like that does it? Not for me anyway. It’s a bit like eating and drinking – if the opportunity is there then normally I take it.

Would I like to go out for brunch? Why yes, yes I would.’

Now then, with the country tentatively reopening its doors for brunch fun times, I’ve found a little bit of worry starting to creep in about how my spending is going to increase. I try generally to keep as relaxed an attitude to money as I can muster – you can’t take it with you, it doesn’t buy you love etc etc – but sometimes it will sneak up on me, that feeling of it seeping away, of not being as in control as I might like.

It’s similar to the feeling I get on my sixth Jaffa Cake and it’s not good.

As I don’t want to not go out for brunch – what horror – I’ve had to look for other, easier ways to save money. One of them is Tesco Clubcard Plus.

I already had a regular Tesco Clubcard of course, because I’m a sucker for earning points and feeling like I’m part of a club, (I think it comes from not having many friends at school…), but Tesco Clubcard Plus cranks things up a notch in terms of membership perks. I’m talking actual cash in your pocket, not just a self-laminated certificate. (Definitely never done that.)

How do I set up Tesco Clubcard Plus?

It really couldn’t be easier to start saving money with Tesco Clubcard Plus.

Step one – subscribe to Tesco Clubcard Plus. It costs £7.99 a month but there is no minimum term so you can cancel any time you like. Although honestly, why would you want to voluntary stop saving money every month?

Step two – download the Clubcard app.

Step three – start saving money! Hoorah!

I found the whole process took just a matter of minutes and the app is very intuitive to use. View Post

Follow:

Advertisement feature in association with Belling

Hulk ice cream sandwiches

Never let it be said that I don’t enjoy a challenge.

When British cooking appliance brand Belling, who’ve been helping families create tasty, nutritious meals since 1912, asked me if I fancied creating a superhero themed recipe as part of their latest campaign to get kids excited about cooking then of course I said yes.

Belling has actually created an entire recipe book of superhero themed recipes, which you can get completely free here. All of the recipes in the Belling campaign are healthy twists on foods linked to superhero films, including treats like rainbow smoothies inspired by Bruce Wayne’s smoothies in Batman Begins and the picnic sandwiches that Billy Batson enjoys in Shazam.

How hard could it be?

‘Not a problem,’ I said.

‘How about some Hulk themed ice cream sandwiches made with Hunka Hulka Burning Fudge ice cream?’ I said.

‘Excellent!’ Belling replied.

And there I was.

If you’re an Avengers fan then you may already have spotted the extra dimension to my challenge – the fact that Hunka Hulka Burning Fudge is actually a completely made up ice cream flavour. Here’s the Hulk tucking into it in Avengers: Endgame: View Post

Follow:

untold stories slummy single mummy

Today’s guest post is an anonymous contribution from a mother of one child who found herself questioning her identity and her value after becoming a parent. It’s very easy to judge people in these kind of situations and I’m sure not everyone will understand. Having a baby though is a massive life shift, it sends our hormones into a spin and can throw us completely off balance. It’s often a time when relationships become especially valuable. We are all human beings after all.

Please do leave a comment or get in touch if you have your own story to share about your family life. Read more Untold Stories here.

By Anon.

I became a mum five years ago, aged 36. We’d been married for 10 years already by then and had been trying for a baby for most of those. Our daughter was eventually conceived on our third round of IVF.

I’d wanted to be a mum ever since I was a little girl. I had this picture perfect idea in my mind of meeting the perfect man, and having a fairytale wedding. Then we’d get on with the business of having three kids and living happily ever after. I met the man, a good start, and I waited for the kids to follow. They didn’t.

We didn’t worry too much about it to start with as it felt like we had plenty of time. As the years rolled on we started to have to face the possibility that our perfect family wasn’t going to come as easily to us as we had imagined. We had tests, we took temperatures, we plotted things on charts and eventually started IVF treatment.

IVF was hard and the all consuming battle to conceive took its toll on both of us, physically and emotionally. By the time we found ourselves pregnant, the longed for baby had become this huge symbol of hope and promise. It felt like everything was resting on it, that once the baby was born our lives could properly begin. View Post

Follow:

Advertisement feature in association with Nightingale Tuition

If you have kids approaching GCSEs who have been struggling in lockdown then read on as I have an hour of free tuition to give to everybody!

It’s one of those fun, little known facts about me that when I was doing my degree, I earned extra money doing private one-to-one maths tuition.

Bee was a toddler at the time, and I can’t remember exactly what she did while I was teaching small children about fractions through the medium of Lego, but private tuition brought in much needed extra cash for me at a time when I was cooking by candlelight because I couldn’t afford to replace the striplight in my kitchen.

Private tuition was a very different thing back then of course – I used to make my own maths board games out of bits of cardboard I cut out of the side of boxes and coloured with felt tip pens. The height of decadence was when I splashed out on a new workbook from WHSmiths and photocopied pages from it in the library for 10p a go.

As much as I enjoyed making my homemade games, it’s a good job that private tuition is more high-tech nowadays, particularly during the coronavirus outbreak. If I was doing it now I wouldn’t be allowed to even show up at someone’s house, let alone get into the library to make use of the top notch copying facilities.

One of the things that working one-to-one with students allowed me to do was to really get to know them and to tailor our sessions according to their needs and how they worked best. This is something that schools inevitably struggle with – it’s just not possible to cater for everyone’s individual needs in a class of 30 kids – and it’s one of the main reasons that parents seek out extra tuition for their children.

This personalised approach is the ethos of Nightingale Tuition, an online one-to-one tuition provider specialising in support for GCSEs.

(Another fun fact – my Brownie leader name is Nightingale. We all have bird names and the girls choose one for us. I wanted to suggest cock-of-the-rock but Brown Owl wouldn’t let me.)

Here’s a little flavour of Nightingale Tuition: View Post

Follow:

Last weekend was Jon’s birthday*, and as everyone knows that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and I needed some blog content, I thought I’d make him a TREAT. Thoughtful no?

I’ve never made millionaire’s shortbread before, and I only had one afternoon to do it in, but it’s one of his favourites and so I thought I’d give it a bash. TOP TIP: you really need more than one afternoon if you want to make proper millionaire’s shortbread where the caramel doesn’t ooze out of the sides as soon as you try to cut it.

Still, everyone knows it’s the thought that counts, and I kept some back to give them longer in the fridge so they’d look good in photos, so really it was an incredibly thoughtful gift and Jon should be very impressed with me.

Easy millionaire's shortbread recipe

I’m an absolute catch

Making millionaire’s shortbread isn’t actually that difficult, as long as you pay attention to the caramel, it’s just that it takes ages, because of the layers. Both the caramel and the chocolate took longer than I expected to go properly hard, so even though the caramel was set enough after a couple of hours to take the chocolate on top, the whole lot still wasn’t hard enough to slice five hours after I started. I would suggest making your millionaire’s shortbread the day before you want it, so that it can chill in the fridge overnight.

Otherwise, it’s a piece of cake, quite literally, so let’s get on with it. View Post

Follow:

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

Follow:

Advertisement feature

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

Follow:

Advertisement feature

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

View Post

Follow:

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

Follow:

Advertisement feature

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

Follow:

Advertisement feature

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

Follow:

Advertisement feature

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

Follow: