Do you remember back in January when I wrote about five things I wanted to do after lockdown?

No me neither to be honest, but one of them was apparently to go to the theatre, (which does sound like something I’d say), and I was reminded of it recently when I was invited to make the theatre dream come true with a trip to London to see The Prince of Egypt at the Dominion Theatre.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to see a proper musical, and needless to say I was excited. I was excited more generally too for going to London and doing fun things like having lunch in a restaurant in Covent Garden that I’d seen in a magazine. I wouldn’t want to live in London, but there is something magical about a day out there. I really felt that last weekend. People travel hundreds and thousands of miles to visit London, and here I am able to pop there for the day on the train. I really am very lucky.

It was particularly magical visiting at Christmas and getting to see all of the Christmas lights and soak up some ‘Christmas in the capital’ vibes with a trip to see The Prince of Egypt.

Here I am, posing for a not at all awkward selfie before the start of the show: View Post

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I’ve been doing a lot of Christmas shopping this week, and by Christmas shopping I mean ‘looking at websites I like and buying myself treats with a few token gifts thrown in.’ To be honest I didn’t even bother throwing in the token gifts when I was shopping at Bookblock, I literally just bought myself six cocktail miniatures.

I was so taken with the Bookblock website, which sells all manner of delightful food and drink bits and gifts and really would be perfect for genuine Christmas shopping, that I got in touch and asked them if they’d like to do a little Instagram giveaway with me.

‘Sure!’ they said. ‘Let’s give away one of these Christmas cocktail sets!’

Christmas cocktail set

Fantastic. I got the competition up on Instagram. Here’s what I wrote… View Post

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In partnership with ATS Euromaster. All research and findings are my own.

Regular readers will know that car maintenance isn’t exactly one of my strong points. Remember when that warning light came on on my dashboard and I just put the satsuma in front of it until one day I tried to turn a corner and the steering wheel wouldn’t move?

*looks awkward*

Having a basic understanding of your car though, things like winter tyres and car safety in general, could save your life, so it’s important to feel confident when it comes to the basics. Winter especially is a dangerous time to be on the roads – road traffic accidents increase by 20% during the winter, and many of these accidents could be prevented by safe winter driving.

Winter is also apparently an excellent time of the year for me to be especially stupid about my car. It was a winter a few years ago when I decided that it would be an excellent idea to scrape the ice off my windscreen with the base of a tin of paint I happened to be collecting from the car boot.

I know, I’m an idiot, but it was so handy. It worked really well too, and it wasn’t until the next time it rained and suddenly the windscreen was a cobweb of tiny scratches that I started to realise the mistake I’d made.

Give me a break… I can write novels, make my own Jaffa cakes and pose naked in front of strangers, just not cars… nobody’s perfect right??

*changes subject quickly*

I was interested then to test our collective winter driving knowledge with the ATS Euromaster winter driving myth challenge. I shared 10 top driving myths on Instagram to see exactly how smart we all our when it comes to winter driving – over 250 people took part and let’s just say a C+ overall, room for improvement. I’ve shared the results below.

If you’re as old as me you will remember ATS very clear from their ‘SOS? ATS!’ TV ad, which I just found on YouTube and discovered is now thirty years old. Good grief. Whoever came up with it though was a genius because it’s stayed in my head this whole time.

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A few weeks ago an email landed in my inbox and the next day I quit the job I’ve been doing for three days a week for the last year.

It wasn’t my boss saying something horrendous, she’s perfectly lovely, it was an email newsletter from writer Oliver Burkeman. In it he quoted the late American psychotherapist Sheldon Kopp:

‘You are free to do whatever you want. You need only face the consequences.’

I read and reread that quote several times, letting it sink in.

At first I felt a bit defensive about it to be honest, like I wanted to say ‘yeah that’s all very well, but I can’t possibly do x, y and z.’ It’s a symptom of the modern world that we’re fed a myth of being able to ‘have it all’. As women especially, we’re presented with this ludicrous idea that we can, and by implication we should, have a successful and fulfilling career AND be a fully present parent AND have some kind of side hustle making our own hand poured soy candles.

Being ‘free’ to do whatever you want can feel like a pressure to do everything at once and when you choose not to, or aren’t able to, it can feel like a failure.

That’s not what Kopp is saying though. He’s not saying you can do whatever you like and therefore you must, he’s just saying go for it if you like, just decide if it’s worth the consequences.

Alongside the myth of having it all of course goes the guilt, and it’s when the consequence of our actions is guilt that we so often feel crippled. How can we be ‘good’ people if we don’t put others first?

‘Oh of course my dream is a travel the world in a campervan, taking photographs of the local wildlife,’ says the mum of teenagers, ‘but I can’t possibly do that because the kids need me to support them through university.’

She could though.

(I said that in a excited but whispery voice, can you tell?)

The consequences might be many, but she could. It’s kind of crazy and wildly exciting when you actually start to think about all the things you could do or say or be if you were prepared to accept the consequences.

I’d been holding back on quitting my job specifically because I was afraid of the consequences. I felt a sense of obligation, (that guilt again), I was worried about my boss’s reaction, I didn’t want to feel like I had let anyone down – it was a lot of feelings that really say more about me and my overgrown sense of responsibility than about anything else.

After reading Oliver Burkeman’s email though, it suddenly felt so much clearer. It became a simple equation, (I like equations) – was the sum of the benefits worth more to me than the potential short term awkwardness? Of course it was. I handed in my notice.

The next time you find yourself wrangling internally over a decision that doesn’t immediately sit comfortably with you, or that causes pangs of guilt, just consider the consequences and ask yourself ‘is it worth it?’

If the answer is yes then to hell with the rest.

 

freedom of choice

 

Photo by Nathan McBride on Unsplash

Also I totally stole the subject line. Sorry Oliver Burkeman. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and all that.

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Hands up if you like pizza!

Who am I kidding, we don’t need a show of hands, everyone loves pizza right? Of course they do. Which is why I know today’s competition is going to be a popular one.

Today I’m giving away an Optima Pizza Express Napoli – a miniature version of a professional pizza oven that you can use at home to create deliciously crisp pizza in a matter of minutes. The Optima pizza oven is normally £169, so this giveaway is a fantastic chance to bag yourself a very decent prize indeed.

Optima pizza oven

It looks the part doesn’t it?

Optima Pizza Express Napoli was designed by Gabriele Ferrari and manufactured entirely in Italy in the picturesque Italian Modena. Two heating elements (bottom and top) heat the interior of Optima Pizza Express Napoli up to 450°C in just 10-15 minutes – the temperature that professional, large pizza ovens achieve – and then pizza can be cooked in just 4-5 minutes. The base of the oven is made of refractory stone, which draws excess moisture from the dough, meaning no soggy bottoms. You can use the over with homemade or shop bought pizzas, so it’s super flexible.

All very jolly.

I had a go with my favourite pizza recipe, which uses ricotta and roasted garlic as a base instead of tomato sauce. I don’t know what Italians would think of this, whether it’s frowned upon to use a non-tomato base, but hey ho, I’m doing it anyway because that’s the kind of gal I am. Remember when I made that ham and cucumber pizza? I’m not afraid to push pizza boundaries.

My pizza is a good one to use up roast dinner leftovers too, so basically it’s environmentally friendly? Food waste and all that? I don’t know, maybe not, but it’s tasty. View Post

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A few weeks ago now I headed up to London one day on the train. When I got there I headed to a nearby apartment, had a glass of prosecco and took my clothes off in front of a man I had never met before.

I KNOW!!

It sounds so DRAMATIC doesn’t it?? How daring I am.

I say it like that for impact, but that is actually what happened, although it’s not the full story.

Boudoir photoshoot

The full story is that I took part in a body confidence photoshoot with Merv, the man behind the camera at You at Yours. Merv sells himself as a boudoir photographer because, he told me, it’s what people understand, but his shoots are about WAY more than standing in your pants against a cheesy background trying to look sexy.

A lot of the traditional boudoir photography shoots are about creating a glamorous, photoshopped version of you that isn’t real. Think 1960s Star Trek with Vaseline smeared on the camera lens every time we turn to look at Kirk’s love interest. What’s the point though of that though if every time you look back at the photos you’re just thinking ‘if only I could look like that all the time!’

With the photos from a You at Yours shoot you just see yourself. View Post

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Have you come across the term ‘manscaping’? It’s a mix of the words ‘man’ and ‘landscaping’ and tends to refer to things below the belt.

Ooer.

If you have a man in your life, (or you ARE a man), who likes to keep his bits and pieces nice and tidy then STEP RIGHT UP because today I have a fantastic giveaway for you – the chance to win the The Performance Package from Manscaped – everything you need to keep yourself well groomed. The Performance Package would make a fab Christmas present and it’s worth over £100, so read on and find out how to enter!

What’s in the Manscaped Performance Package?

The Manscaped Performance Package is an amazing bundle of manscaping goodies including:

  • The new Lawn Mower 4.0, the fourth generation groin and body trimmer featuring cutting-edge ceramic blades to reduce grooming accidents thanks to advanced SkinSafe™Technology.
  • The Weed Whacker, a nose and ear trimmer for the toughest weeds. Designed with proprietary SkinSafe™ technology, the Weed Whacker helps reduce nicks, snags, and tugs.
  • The Crop Preserver® ball deodorant – helps create an anti-chafing barrier and provides long-lasting freshness below-the-waist.
  • The Crop Reviver® ball toner – features soothing aloe and witch hazel extracts to keep the highly sensitive areas of the body cool, calm and protected.
  • The Performance Package also comes with a free premium travel bag – The Shed – and a free pair of anti-chafing boxers!

Manscaped discount code

I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a pretty nice prize. It would definitely make a better Christmas present than a Lynx giftset from Superdrug.

I’m sold! How do I enter?

Cutting to the chase, I like it.

To enter for the chance to win the Manscaped Performance Package, simply complete as many of the entry mechanisms below as you can. The more ways you enter, the better your chances of winning this fabulous prize. The competition will close at 11.59pm on 20th November 2021 and full T&Cs apply.

Enter now – your balls will thank you!

If you can’t wait to see if you win you can shop with Manscaped NOW and get 20% off – the discount will be applied automatically when you shop via this link.

Win a Manscaped Performance Package worth over £100

Manscaped discount code

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Today I want to introduce you to Carrot Kitchen, the world’s first mobile cooking buddy for kids, and show you how your kids can use Carrot Kitchen to improve confidence in the kitchen, learn new skills AND make chocolate bat brownies.

bat brownies Carrot Kitchen

One of my proudest moments as a parent was when Bee went off to university eight years ago (gah!) and was the only person in her flat of eight who knew how to cook or use a washing machine. I think that to get to be a full grown adult and not be able to wash your own clothes and at least chuck together a spaghetti bolognese is pretty shocking to be honest. What are all these parents doing packing off their kids without basic food skills? More importantly, (for us as parents), how have they been pulling their weight at home if they can’t even cook dinner?

I’ve always encouraged my daughters to cook and Belle, who is now 19 and my only child left at home, is a lovely cook and always has been, as evidenced by the easy tomato soup video she made when she was 13. It might be the most adorable thing you’ll ever watch. (Unless you’ve seen her singing Small Pleasures in her primary school production of Oliver Twist.) She does a fantastic lasagne and her baking is immense. Remember when she made these steamed bunny bao buns? They were SO good.

I know, I know, I’ve done well, thank you. 10/10 for parenting when it comes to cooking at least.

The point I’m trying to make is that empowering kids in the kitchen is important – it equips them with essential life skills, it means they can contribute to the cooking and take the pressure off you AND it’s fun. Cooking is a brilliant creative outlet, it helps your maths skills and coordination and it encourages healthy eating – it’s really got an awful lot to offer.

I do get though that sometimes it’s hard as a parent to find the time or the motivation to cook with kids, which is where Carrot Kitchen comes in.

Carrot kitchen – a cooking buddy for kids

Carrot Kitchen is aimed at kids from aged 6-13, but you could use Carrot Kitchen with younger children too if you were supervising. With a Carrot Kitchen subscription kids have access to loads of tasty and healthy recipes and skill videos, all designed by food education experts. There are step-by-step recipe videos, featuring real children, so kids can cook independently or with friends and family. View Post

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We moved house a lot as a child. Every time we moved, my sister and I would entertain fantasies of discovering some kind of hidden part of the new house – a shed or a cellar maybe, ideally accessed via a hidden doorway behind a bookcase – where we’d find all manner of long forgotten secret and important things. This hidden area would become our BASE, in which we would eat secret snacks, solve mysteries and generally be very cool.

It never quite happened like that of course. We came (not very) close with the space behind the drawers under my cabin bed, (I mention that here), and a little closer with the brick built ‘shed’ in one garden of a house we lived in in Bridgwater, but we had to carve a space out in that amongst stacks of boxes and old fire extinguishers, which rather shattered the illusion of it being undiscovered by anyone but us. It really wasn’t very Secret Seven.

All of these memories came flooding back to me today when I read A Robot Called B4, a children’s book produced by Worcester Bosch on World Earth Day 2021. A Robot Called B4 tells the story of friends Ava and Alfie, who discover of a robot called B4 in a hidden garden shed and travel back through time to the age of dinosaurs to realise how our past actions are destroying the green planet we once knew.

I can’t say I wasn’t more than a little jealous of Ava and Alfie.

A Robot Called B4 book

There was always a slim hope when my sister and I were on a secret shed hunt that we would accidentally come across some sort of time/space portal, that we would clamber in through a rotten wooden shed door and find ourselves in wartime Britain, Goodnight Sweetheart style. I never hid in a wardrobe as a child without a tiny part of me convinced that Narnia was waiting for me. View Post

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A few weeks ago I listened to Oliver Burkeman’s new book, Four Thousand Weeks. It’s about how much time we have to live on average, (the clue is in the title), and how to use it. Generally I have to say I found it more terrifying than liberating, but it was just before I started HRT so maybe I was peak hormonal midlife crisis.

One phrase stuck out for me at the time and has been swooshing around my brain ever since – it’s the idea of always trying to clear the decks.

Most of us I’m sure do this a lot. We literally clear our desks before we start work or we clean the kitchen before we sit down to relax in front of the TV. Sometimes it’s a procrastination tool, sometimes it’s a feeling that we have to do something we don’t want to do in order to earn the ‘reward’, whatever that may be.

Sometimes though it’s bigger. Sometimes clearing the decks can be a feeling of needing to wait until something has happened in order to do something else.

‘Once I’ve lost a stone I will feel better about myself and will start dating again.’

‘I just need to finish up this big project at work and then I can make time for family.’

‘The kids will be leaving home in a few years, that will be the time to pursue my own dreams.’

We’re scared of starting something, of taking a risk, of just enjoying ourselves, so we wait for the perfect moment. We wait until we’ve accomplished the things we feel we need to accomplish. We feel like if we can just clear the inbox, THEN we will start that creative project we honestly really do want to do. We just need to finish the house renovations and THEN we can start having friends and family to stay. We just need to clear the decks first, then we can properly start.

SPOILER: The decks will never be cleared.

Life doesn’t work like that. You can empty your inbox but the emails will keep coming. Lose that stone and what a surprise, you won’t instantly feel confident about dating. Nothing is really ever finished. There is never a right time.

I think the idea of never being able to clear the decks stuck with me because it aligns with my own personal motto.

(Yes, I have a personal motto. I am THAT person and I’m not even sorry about it. I don’t have it in swirly writing above my front door or anything, but I carry it in the back of my head, quietly, just as a guide.)

Ready, fire, aim.

I know, I’m awesome right? You’re welcome to share.

If I had spent my life waiting until I knew exactly where I was going before I started anything then I would never have taken any of the first steps that have led me into exciting adventures, new opportunities and, admittedly, disastrous relationships. I wouldn’t be here, writing this blog, that’s for sure. The career’s test at school told me I should be an insurance underwriter and the internet hadn’t even been invented.

When people ask me how I came up with my blog name I shrug and say ‘it was available and I’d had a glass of wine.’ I could have spent ages choosing a name and designing a logo and getting everything just so, but then I would never have begun. I would never have asked Antonio Banderas if he thought that if birds ruled the world, they would leave food out for humans.

We have four thousand weeks people.

We can’t afford to wait until we feel 100% ready because what if that time never comes? This isn’t a dress rehearsal, life isn’t just around the corner waiting to start just as soon as you’ve sent the kids of the university, retiled the kitchen and joined the gym. It’s happening right now. This is it, it’s started, and the clock is ticking.

You should probably stop reading this and get on with it.

Ready, fire, aim

The link to Oliver Burkeman’s book is an affiliate link so if it’s on your wishlist, buy it through me and I get a few pennies. Photo by Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash  

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Today I want to talk dating apps, specifically dating apps for single parents.

‘Ooh,’ I hear you ask, ‘which are the best dating apps for single parents?’

None of them is the answer, because there aren’t any. I mean sure, single parents can use whatever dating apps they like if they can stomach the Tinder Bingo, but there’s always the baggage angle isn’t there? Nothing’s going to get you in a romantic frame of mind quite like reading ‘no baggage, no drama’ on a man’s profile and knowing he means ‘no kids, no emotional needs of any kind thank you very much’.

I find it surprising sometimes that of all the men I’ve had serious relationships with, the ones where we’ve lived together, none of them have been parents already.

(Okay, caveat here – I just remembered that Belle’s dad actually did have a daughter already, he just wasn’t in touch with her, which really should have been a huge red flag in itself, especially as he blamed number 7 on my red flag list. He also lied about his age when we met and said he was 26 when actually he was 27, which is quite frankly just WEIRD. I was only 21 when I met him though, so let’s cut me some slack.)

Being a single mum and being in relationships with people without children has always been difficult. I’ve never really felt like they got it, like they understood that my priorities were always going to be slightly different to theirs. I’ve never truly felt either like my partner has taken on my children as if they were his own. In one relationship for example, where we lived together in the same house, ostensibly as a family, my partner would only contribute a third of all household bills, claiming that I should have to contribute the kids’ share on my own.

(I pick them don’t I?)

In this particular relationship the fact that I was a parent, and that we were therefore at very different stages in our lives generally, was what eventually led to our separation. I remember one Friday evening, feeling exhausted after a busy week, bemoaning the fact that I would have to get up early in the morning and hoping secretly that he might offer to get up instead.

‘Well they’re your kids,’ he said, matter-of-factly.

I fell silent. View Post

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I have to be honest, everything about this post thrills me.

I am easily thrilled, that’s probably fair, but the process of writing this post has actually fulfilled a childhood dream of mine, similar to always wanting a Mr Frosty but never getting one.

No, I don’t finally own Mousetrap, and I’ve not been allowed to join the Secret Seven, so what could it be?

Here’s a clue in the form of a photo.

Safecan student security

Can you spot my family jewels in my kitchen cupboard?

No, I didn’t think so.

How about on this bookcase – can you spot where I’ve hidden all my very important family documents, like the deeds to the family mansion and the government bonds worth millions? View Post

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