14 super cool school bags

When eBay asked me to help them put together a back to school buyers’ guide, I should probably have warned them that I know absolutely nothing at all about how to be cool at school.

As a teenager, I just never quite got to grips with what was expected of me; what trainers I was meant to have, where I was meant to hang out at lunchtime – I always got things a little bit wrong. (And by ‘a little bit’ I mean dreadfully.) On non-uniform days, when everyone else just switched to the uniform of jeans and t-shirts, I tended to think it would be rather nice to borrow a floral blouse from my mum, to jolly things up a little bit, and to perhaps wear a nice skirt.

It’s been quite hard for me then as a parent to help my own children ingratiate themselves with their peers, and more often than not, when lacking any understanding of the right sort of back pack to be seen carrying, I have resorted instead to reminding them that it’s the kids who were popular at my school that are now unemployed drug addicts, living in bedsits in Bridgwater.

It’s not ideal.

Rather than make a fool of myself then, I enlisted Belle’s help in putting together my eBay guide and between us we came up with 14 super cool backpacks that hopefully won’t make you a complete social outcast.

No promises though.

Check out my buyers’ guide here.

Super cool back packs

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Would you rather have a £1,357 pay rise or regular visits to the library?

I read an amazing fact the other day. It said that £1,357 was the size of the pay rise needed to make the average person as happy as a regular visit to a library.

Topsy and Tim go to the library

I can quite believe it.

I have always felt there to be something quite magical about libraries. From the excitement of reading about Topsy and Tim’s adventures at their local library – ‘the books may look higgeldy piggledy, but we do know where to find them!’ – to the joy of creating my very own library at home, libraries will always hold a special place in my heart.

I don’t remember much from my childhood, but one thing I do remember, way back when I was about six or seven and we lived in Weymouth, was driving over to Dorchester for a trip to the  library. My sister and I would always choose our books quickly, and then get impatient as my mum browsed. I remember wandering through the rows and rows of shelves, finding her with a small pile already nestled in the crook of one arm, but with a look about her that said we’d be best off just finding somewhere comfy to sit for a little while.

When we finally got to the counter, the librarian would remove the cardboard tickets from inside the books and tuck them into our individual wallets, stored at the library in large card files so they would know exactly who had what.

Nowadays of course it all self scanners, but Belle gets as much of a kick out of placing her book into the machine and seeing the title pop up on screen as I did watching the librarian organising the cardboard tickets and stamping the dates into the front of our books. Over the years the library has been a salvation to me as a parent; somewhere soothing to go with a toddler on a rainy afternoon, a place to grab a handful of books for myself, a baby asleep in a pram, to help me feel more normal.

Libraries are being closed all over the country, but if we are all going to feel £1,357 worse off as a result, surely this is a massive false economy?

How much is a regular trip to the library worth to you?

Road trips, toasted marshmallows, and ways to save money on fuel

When we were children we had two favourite car games; the left right game and the follow a car game. I think you can probably guess what was involved. My children are fans too, but my first thought always nowadays when asked to follow a car is ‘How far will it go? How much will that cost me in petrol??’ Playing in the late 80s when you could get a litre of 4* for about 40p was a slightly different prospect.

When we were away in the motorhome I even found myself doing something I have never done before – downloading an app to compare the nearest fuel prices. It was a difficult and slightly scary moment for me; you know you’ve really turned a corner age wise when you start driving past petrol stations and actually noticing and caring about a 2p increase in prices.

However expensive fuel gets though, it’s just not something I’m ever going to be able to go without. Being able to drive to visit friends and family is really important to me, as is taking Belle for days out and holidays. Fuel might be expensive, but to me it’s worth it. Our road trip was wonderful – it gave Belle and I both a much needed break from life at home, it allowed us to visit places we had never seen before, to learn new things, and most importantly, to spend time together.

Mother and daughter Read more

Visiting all the counties in England – 40 things before 40

As avid readers, (which you all are obviously), you’ll know that we recently went on a bit of a motorhome adventure, in a van very kindly lent to us by Bailey of Bristol.

This was it:

Bailey Approach Compact

Motorhome crush

As well as being great fun, and an opportunity for us to listen to countless mystery novels on audio book, it was actually part of a grander plan. It isn’t for nothing after all that a girl is prepared to wheel a box of her own poo across a field of holidaymakers. It was in aid of ticking off another item from my list of 40 things to do before I am 40; specifically to visit every county in England. Read more

Do you know a special mum who deserves some recognition? Nominate her now in the Tesco Mum of the Year Awards 2015

For the last couple of years now I have been an official blogging ambassador for the Tesco Mum of the Year Awards, and I’m very honoured to have been asked to be involved again with the 2015 awards, their 10th anniversary.

Tesco Mum of the Year Awards

The Tesco Mum of the Year Awards are about recognising and celebrating those mums who have gone the extra mile in supporting their families, communities and causes close to their heart. We’re not talking here about simply going to the effort to bake something homemade for the summer fair rather than buying something at Waitrose and roughing it up a bit around the edges, this is about amazing women doing truly amazing things. Read more

4 looks every single girl needs to woo a new man

So.

I met this man.

*grins*

I’m not going to tell you anything about him at the moment as he is my Special Secret Thing. I don’t want to ruin it all by having him realise I am the kind of girl who blabs about boys all over the internet, although of course that is exactly what I am. Don’t tell him though.

What I can tell you though is that he is doing funny things to my head. I have found myself thinking about him rather a lot, possibly around 98.6% of the time. Roughly. A friend described me as ‘giddy’. That about sums it up.

One of the side effects of meeting someone new is that you start to look at yourself and your surroundings in a new way, over-analysing every detail. You look at your mismatched crockery and wonder whether it reflects your eclectic interests and thoughts, or if it just makes you look a bit cheap. You look in your underwear draw and physically shudder. An examination of your wardrobe reveals that you are going to be a little stuck after date three, unless your date is really into old jeans and fleeces, and you start feeling the urge to spend money you don’t really have on pretty new things. Pretty new things you can casually brush off as old favourites should said date compliment you.* Read more

The joy of chemical toilets

At 5.28pm on Tuesday 5th August I found myself doing something I had never done before, something I never imagined I ever would do.

At 5.28pm on Tuesday 5th August I wheeled a plastic box of my own poo across a field full of holidaymakers, happily playing swing ball and barbecuing meats. It was a bit like walking through an airport, except outdoors and with infinitely more unpleasant luggage.

And so I was introduced to the joys of the chemical toilet.

chemical toilet Read more

5 easy ways to beautify any home

Whether you’ve been living in your home for years or just moved in there are always ways to change and adapt to make it more beautiful. Even if you’re renting like us, that doesn’t mean you can’t add a little sparkle. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Inject some colour

According to UK TV Home a fresh coat of paint on your walls is the best way to make an easy change and I’m certainly a big fan of colour in a home. In fact you could probably use the expression ‘riot of colour’ to describe the house I lived in in Bridgwater for five years. Some people argued that pink and yellow for a kitchen was too, much but I disagree.

If you’re a little more traditional in your colour choices, you can always inject some colour through accessories. We used Authentico chalk paint on a pile of old photo frames to create the picture collages in our new house, meaning the walls stay fresh and white but are still interesting. Read more

We’re back from our road trip!

We’re home!

Did you miss me?

No, well, never mind, I’m back anyway whether you like it or not.

I’m going to be writing all about the trip over the next couple of weeks but before I distract you with tales of ancient monuments and rainy walks I just wanted to say a massive thank you to Bailey, who lent us the motorhome for ten days, allowing us to visit 12 counties in all and to tick ‘visit every county in England’ off my list of 40 things to do before 40.

I was really nervous before we set off about how I was going to manage a motorhome, but I actually loved driving it. Here I am, looking rather pleased with myself having successfully got us to our first Caravan Club site:

Bailey Approach Compact Read more

NOW TV Nickelodeon Swap Shop – free digital activity packs and the chance to win goodies!

How are you getting on with the summer holidays?

Normally I dread them, but this summer I’ve actually been enjoying them. It has helped a lot of course that I have taken a bit of time off work and don’t have that awful child/work juggling act to contend with, but I’m also really loving the little perks, like not having to get up early and not having to see the return at 3.30pm of at least half the packed lunch I so resentfully put together that morning.

“Why didn’t you eat your sandwiches?” I will ask for the 27,324th time in 19 years of parenting, resisting the urge to put my head in the oven.

“I didn’t have time,” will come the reply.

“But you had time to eat the cake?”

Silence.

There are no words.

We know how I feel about packed lunches though, I don’t need to go into that again. Read more