That Glisten moment

Today I have a guest post from my sister Annabel as part of a blogger challenge for Glisten – do check out their geodomes! Also, Annabel has recently started her very own blog – Fiandmi – and that is definitely worth a look too.

“This has been the best day ever!” My son exclaims.

Score! As a mummy this is the closest I get to a good work appraisal. No meetings with my boss, no personal development reviews, just endless days trying really hard to be nurturer, nourisher, educator all rolled in to one without the merest hint of a ‘well done, you’re doing really well’ or a ‘you could try doing that slightly differently for a better result.’

I am working blind, clinging on to some faint vestiges of hope that I am generally an OK mum but no-one ever says one way or the other and certainly not to your face.

So, I take what I can and “best day ever” seems about as good as I am going to get.

“But what prompted this exclamation?” I here you cry. Read more

How I came full circle and I became a slummy single mummy again

When I started my blog in 2009 I was genuinely a slummy single mummy, evenings spent at home alone watching Sex and the City, avoiding the dishes wherever possible. Not long after though, I met someone.

That someone became Boyfriend.

“Are you going to change your blog name now?” he asked me at one point, a few months into our relationship.

“No,” I said. “That’s the brand. Sshh.”

I’ve never blogged much about Boyfriend, preferring to keep him secret and special, so much of my life revealed online, but he very quickly became a hugely important part of me and we have been living together for nearly three years.

Today Boyfriend moved out.

We decided that we wanted different things. Clichéd but true? I don’t even know any more. We talked about it so much that I can’t remember whether I was really ever unhappy or whether we’re simply the victims of society making us believe that the only relationship worth having is one in which both parties feel blissfully happy and satisfied at all times. Heaven forbid there be work involved.

What I do know is that I feel gutted – literally empty. I’m in that weird limbo between not wanting to talk about it but at the same time being able to think of nothing else and wanting to tell everyone I see. How can they not tell just from passing me in the street that my heart is broken? How can it be that the world carries on as normal? I mainly say nothing, sometimes doing a brave little smile or sighing loudly.

Unfortunately neither the smiles or the sighs translate well into blog posts or pithy social media updates, so I may be a little quiet for a while.* Sorry about that. I hope that normal service will be resumed soon, in all senses.

*Apart obviously from all the sponsored posts I have scheduled. I need to earn a living after all to pay for all the gin and ice cream I will need to temporarily fill the void.

The Colossal Cake Sale – how to use the power of cake to change lives

First questions: do you love cakes?

(If you said no then just leave now. Come on.)

Second question: do you like being charitable?

This is a trick question as clearly it’s not really OK to answer no to this one.

You will be pleased to know that this year you can combine these two loves to help provide vital support to those who have suffered life changing injuries and their families, for life. All you have to do is take part in the Colossal Cake Sale, which has been set up by Help for Heroes, the charity which help those who have been wounded in Britain’s current conflicts.

Colossal cake sale

Help For Heroes are asking every community to get together between 19th April and 5th May to raise money by holding a cake sale, either at their local school or shopping centre or just making cakes to sell around the office or to friends and family. This year the event is being sponsored by Whitworths sugar and they have loads of recipes on their website to get you started. Read more

REVIEW – Method: designed for good

Guest post from Bee Richards

On my way out to buy hand wash recently, I decided to check my post box. Inside was a parcel slip, and inside the parcel was some hand wash! What are the chances?!

This wasn’t just any old hand wash though. This was Method gel hand wash – designed for good. This hand wash has been designed by Method, the eco friendly cleaning products company, to help raise awareness for the fair treatment of animals.

Method hand wash cruelty free

Method believes that “guinea pigs should never be used as guinea pigs” which makes me happy, with guinea pigs being my favourite pet and all. Method never tests any of their products on animals and, better yet, their products are actually safe to use around your pets. That means no excuse for any guinea pigs not washing their hands after they’ve been to the toilet.

As well as the hand wash being pet friendly and pro fair animal treatment, it’s the most adorable hand wash I’ve ever seen. The bottle is a lovely teardrop shape and is decorated with bunnies! I love bunnies.

I received the Mimosa Sun variety, and there’s a Botanical Garden scent available to buy too. Mimosa Sun smells gorgeous – orange, peach and lily of the valley are some of my favourite smells and they are all combined into this refreshing hand wash. It really does smell like summer sun in a bottle. It also made my skin really soft; usually most hand wash just dries my hands out and I have to put hand cream on straight after. Not with this hand wash though, as it contains no harsh chemicals making it great for your skin.

All in all, this hand wash is one of the best I’ve ever tried, and it’s against animal cruelty message gives you a happy little buzz every time you wash your hands.

Disclosure: I was sent this and other products to review and in return, Method is donating £100 to Cruelty Free International! 

Would you prefer to look slimmer or younger?

As much as I hate the idea of a society governed by looks, you can’t deny that most of us do care about our appearance to some extent, whether it’s simply dabbing a bit of a concealer over a massive spot or spending an hour every day on an elaborate hair styling routine.

(In case you couldn’t guess, I’m in the ‘light dabbing of concealer’ camp. Except I don’t actually own any concealer. Opps.)

I’ve always been ‘lucky’ though in that I have really young looking skin, partly due I like to think to the fact that I’ve never smoked or excessively sunbathed and have worn a moisturiser with SPF15 for the last 20 years, but mostly I suspect because I just have very greasy skin. Seriously, my nose is so slick it doubles as a lip balm.

(True fact. I saw it once on Oprah. If you’re stuck for Vaseline just rub a bit of nose grease on your lips.)

Bee has inherited the nose grease gene, and recently tried to bill me for expensive skincare products, but as I pointed out, I was technically saving her money on anti-ageing regimes, so it all balances out.

Check out the infographic below. Would you rather be slimmer or younger looking? How would you choose between moisturiser and Facebook??

Secrets Behind Beauty
Secrets Behind Beauty from
Sanctuary Spa

Disclosure: this is a sponsored post.

5 reasons why we love Lottie

Today I have a guest review, written by Kathie from Hungry Sauce. Kathie and I both LOVE Lottie dolls, but my youngest daughter is 11 and Kathie writes a food blog, so we teamed up, getting Kathie’s young daughter Em to put Lottie to the test.

Emma and her Lottie Doll

Have you seen Lottie? She’s lovely.

She’s a doll, but get this – she’s a girl. A girl, with a girl’s body, no boobies, no make-up and no weird teeny, tiny, foot-binding feet. And what’s even more amazing is she’s a girl who – and I know you won’t believe this – sometimes wears trousers. And trainers. Read more

Webloyalty Easter research reveals the nation’s favourite chocolate

Is Easter special for you? Webloyalty reveals how many of us will be celebrating this year…

How do you feel about Easter? Do you have a favourite Easter Egg or is it about something else for you? Webloyalty is conducting some Easter research and as part of it you could win ten Easter eggs to either share with family and friends or eat secretly in bed when no one is looking. Read on to find out how to win…

Easter egg competition

“Don’t get me an Easter egg this year,” Bee text me recently.

“Really?” I replied. “How come?”

“I’m trying not to eat sugar,” she replied. “Or dairy.”

OK. Well that definitely narrows it down a little bit.

Fortunately for Bee I don’t tend to buy my Easter eggs until about 5pm on the Saturday before Easter, so there is plenty of time for her to swing the other way and demand a two foot tall Lindt extravaganza. I won’t make the same mistake I made at Christmas, buying an array of expensive vegan chocolates in September only to have her give up veganism in favour of a diet of Burger King and Starbucks as soon as she got to university and had to buy and cook her own food.

When I was little I remember Easter, thanks to my Gran, who always got a little overexcited about gifts, being a very lucrative affair chocolate wise. It wasn’t uncommon for me to end up with a tower of ten eggs. Nowadays though it doesn’t really feel like so much of a thing – as a parent it’s tough to part with £4.99 for what you know is essentially about 27p worth of chocolate and a recycling bin full of cardboard.

I’m not alone. According to Webloyalty, 72.8% of consumers feel that Easter has become far too commercial, and cost is a big issue with almost two-thirds of consumers viewing Easter eggs as poor value for money. Interestingly though this is one area where we don’t appear to want to skimp, with 58% of us intending to buy mostly or solely branded Easter eggs. It seems that something may be lacking in the marketing of own-brand Easter eggs as just 33% of consumers agreed that own-brand eggs are the equal of branded ones. Nobody wants an Asda value egg do they?

The Importance of Easter - Webloyalty research - Slummy Single Mummy

Aside from the eggs, Easter will see lots of us heading off to B&Q or the local craft shop for some wholesome family fun, as well as cooking up a Sunday roast. Personally I prefer to save the space, skip the chicken and stuff myself with chocolate cornflake cakes and mini eggs, but each to his own.

What we are planning this Easter - Webloyalty research - Slummy Single Mummy

One tradition that does hold strong in our house is the Easter Bunny. Just like Father Christmas, I am a big fan of the Easter Bunny as he can do all of the hard work of buying and hiding the eggs, whilst I get all the glory as my children mistakenly believe that he isn’t real.

Seriously, do they think I have managed to get up ever year at dawn, often with a hangover, to hide dozens of tiny eggs in imaginative places? I don’t think so.

Webloyalty’s Easter Competition!

Webloyalty wants to know what your favourite chocolate Easter egg is! To be in with a chance to win the whole lot, just tell them your favourite out of this selection: The Webloyalty Easter Egg Competition. You’ve only got a few days left to enter, so hurry up and do it now!

Easter egg competition

You can follow Webloyalty on Twitter @WebloyaltyUK for more interesting research snippets and ongoing competitions, or take a look at other research on the Webloyalty Slideshare. More importantly, here you can find the Webloyalty Easter Retail Report in full – enjoy!

Photo credit: Nomadic Lass                                                                        

Disclosure: this is a sponsored post

Win a family ticket to Berkeley Castle this Easter

I have to confess that until we visited Berkeley Castle last year I had never heard of it. It seems strange that you can live so near to somewhere and not know about it, but there you go, I can’t be expected to know everything.

If you read about our trip though, you’ll see that it was an excellent discovery and I’ve been recommending it to people ever since, if only for the butterflies and the yurt cafe. (I love yurts).

Today then, I am very pleased to have a family ticket to give away to visit the spectacular Berkeley Castle over the Easter weekend. There’s loads going on, including life-like dragons and a Chinese dragon parade on the Sunday and Monday. There’s also a dragon egg hunt around the Castle and grounds, and dragon themed arts and crafts activities on all weekend.

Berkeley castle Easter acitivties

Berkeley castle Easter acitivties

Berkeley castle Easter acitivties

Tickets will be valid for any of the Easter weekend days – Friday 18th – Monday 21st – and will be available for collection on the day, so you don’t need to worry about the post arriving in time. The competition will close on Wednesday 16th April at midnight. To enter, just use the widgety thing below.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

5 must-see English Heritage sites

For Christmas last year Boyfriend’s parent bought me an English Heritage membership. (Jolly nice of them wasn’t it?) I’ve been a National Trust member for years, lured in mainly by the cream teas, but had never really got into English Heritage apart from a visit to a castle with Belle on the Isle of Wight last summer.

Now though, I am a convert. This week my new handbook and magazine arrived, giving me the perfect excuse to turn off Twitter for a few minutes, make a cup of tea and read some real words on actual paper. You know, the old fashioned stuff, made of trees?

English Heritage

As part of my list of 40 things to do before I’m 40, I plan to visit every county in England, and I thought that English Heritage would be an ideal way to make sure I did something wholesome along the way, rather than just stopping in every county for a cake. I’ve browsed my brochure and come up with five English Heritage sites I would love to visit on my travels:

Stonehenge

A bit of a classic this one. I have driven past it a few times, and have a vague memory of visiting when I was small (although it could have been anywhere really – perhaps the stones just looked big because I was little?) but I would love to visit properly.

There is just something so magical about it isn’t there? Seriously, those stones are massive, how did they even get there?? Please do take a quick look at the video – it’s really short but just beautiful.




Sponsored video
Bolsover Castle

The East Midlands generally is the region of England that I have visited least, so I thought I should pick out a couple from this area. I was drawn to Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire as it’s described as a ‘fantasy castle of frivolity’ – ‘a uniquely preserved example from an age of extravagance.’

Well, I’m always up for a bit of extravagant frivolity as you know, so what’s not to love?

Bolsover Castle

Peveril Castle

Also in Derbyshire, I thought this one would make a nice contrast to Bolsover, as it used to be a prison. Call me morbid if you will but there is something very evocative about a ruined prison. Gazing out over the Peak District I imagine getting a real sense of what life may have been like as a prisoner – the vast, sparsely-populated landscape stretching for miles.

It hasn’t always been a prison mind you – mentioned in the Domesday survey, Peveril Castle is one of England’s earliest Norman fortresses. Pretty cool.

Peveril castle

Whitby Abbey

Having lived near Glastonbury for the majority of my life I have a bit of a soft spot for ruined abbeys and Whitby Abbey looks particularly beautiful. In fact, its gothic splendour is said to have inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula – spooky stuff. There are even sometimes live performances, helping you to get into the Dracula spirit of things, which is always fun.

Whitby Abbey

Audley End House and Gardens

When you think Essex you might not immediately think stately homes and sites of historical interest, but Audley End House looks like a cracker and Essex is on my list of counties I’ve never been to. Reopening this spring after a huge redevelopment project, Audley End House promises the whole upstairs downstairs thing – showing the contrast between how different members of the household lived.

I always love seeing the kitchens and servants’ quarters in old houses as I think these create much more powerful, relatable stories.

Audley end house and gardens

What are your favourite English Heritage sites?

All images apart from the one of my cup of tea are courtesy of English Heritage.

National Stationery Week and child sponsorship with World Vision

You might not immediately make the link between sponsoring a child with World Vision and National Stationery Week, but then the talent of any writer is take two seemingly unrelated subjected and weave them together into a convincing story.*

Now I am a massive fan of stationery and love any excuse to buy a new pen, but in today’s modern touchscreen world I don’t often get to do much actual writing. One of the only times I ever sit down to write a letter is when I write to Eyerus, the child I sponsor through World Vision. I began sponsoring Eyerus after my trip to Ethiopia last year and it’s always lovely to get a letter from her – we’ve never met and yet she always shares such interesting details about her life. Child sponsorship really makes you appreciate how your money makes a difference to individual people and their communities.

Child sponsorship with World Vision National Stationery WeekRyman very kindly gave me a voucher to spend on treats to celebrate National Stationery Week – 31 March  - 6 April – so I thought it would be nice to share this with Eyerus. I bought myself a lovely new red pen to write my letter in (rather worryingly the same type of pen my Grandad used to insist on writing all his notes in when he was very old and forgetful) and I bought Eyerus a notebook and some coloured pencils.

Child sponsorship with World Vision National Stationery Week

Child sponsorship with World Vision National Stationery Week

Child sponsorship with World Vision and National Stationery WeekI’m pretty sure they won’t be celebrating National Stationery Week in Ethiopia but I hope that Eyerus gets as much joy from a notebook and coloured pencils as I do.

Do you still write letters to anyone?

*I’m not sure that is actually a writing thing, but one thing writers do need to be able to do is make a story convincing, and I pretty much convinced myself of that fact.

Disclosure: Ryman sent me a voucher in return for mentioning their pencils.