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When I mention TikTok to anyone over the age of about 30, the usual response is a kind of blank stare. ‘What’s TikTok?’ they ask, saying ‘TikTok’ in the same slow, confused way that my mum says ‘mobile data’, sounding out every syllable with equal emphasis, like it’s a foreign language.

Chances are though that even if you don’t use TikTok, your young adults do. As we all know, responsible parents take internet safety very seriously and definitely don’t just watch Gardener’s World pretending not to have noticed that their teen is an hour over the screen time limit.

Seriously though, it is important to at least have an understanding of what TikTok is about, and how to use TikTok’s safety and security features, even if you’d rather be planning next year’s borders. It’s important to understand how to use it safely.

I’ve put together a TikTok guide for parents to help you get to grips with what it’s all about.

What is TikTok?

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a free app for 13+, (available on Android and IOS), that lets you record, share and watch short videos. They often involve goofing around to popular music, (I said ‘popular music’ in my head like an old person – ‘ooh is that in the hit parade?’), and TikTok can actually be influential in turning songs into hits.

Belle uses TikTok a lot for making short dance videos or odd montages where she jumps in the air and lands in a different outfit. The last thing that Belle made and showed me was a short video, set to music, of her pushing one of Joey’s toy cars slowly towards a woodlouse on the carpet. No, I don’t understand either, but this is what counts as funny nowadays apparently. My point is that there is a massive range of content on TikTok and it’s a great platform for exploring your creativity. View Post

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It’s 10 years ago now since I gave up the nine to five and became self-employed.

Bee and Belle were fourteen and seven at the time and I made the decision for a variety of reasons. Firstly, I may have been drunk. Secondly I was sick of wasting my time for not much money – it felt like I was spending hours at my desk and often accomplishing very little. Not (always) because I was being slack, but because there’s always so much down time, waiting on decisions, waiting on management.

There has been a lot of research in fact into the amount of actual WORK that people get done on the average working day and most of it, like this study, concludes than in the average eight hour day at the office, most people do less than three hours of work.

It’s ridiculous isn’t it?

I hated the rigidity of it, having to turn up and be at your desk between set hours, just because that’s what everybody does. It felt so pointless, especially when, as a single parent, I was having to do things like forgo school performances and pay for extra childcare. I spent five years after Belle was born stressing myself out, working badly paid, part-time jobs for which I was generally over-qualified, driving from one job to another on my lunch break, scoffing a sandwich in the car. It wasn’t much fun and I didn’t make much money.

I knew that if I worked for myself I could get the flexibility I needed to prioritise my children. I also knew that I was smart and could work quickly and would probably end up working far fewer hours for the same money, if not more.

I was right.

Fast forward 10 years then to last week, when I was listening to a presentation about business growth.

“Put your hand up,” said the speaker, “if you would like to grow your business.” He smiled and kind of chuckled, as though that was an obvious question. Who wouldn’t want to grow their business? Dur.

I kept my hand down. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Funky Pigeon

I’m going to be completely honest here and say that in my younger days I would have found the idea of personalised Christmas gifts a little tacky. I say ‘my younger days’ like I’m referring to the 1870s or something – I just mean when I was maybe in my early twenties and still clinging to the illusion that if I just tried hard enough, and walked with enough nonchalance, that I could be COOL.

Obviously I can’t – I have a collection of Nancy Drew books and the Inspector Morse box set – but the lovely thing about getting older is that you don’t actually care any more. I love that sassy girl detective and you can like it or lump it. Plus I just remembered that when Belle was a baby I had a photo of her and Bee put on a mousemat, so, perhaps I’ve always secretly loved personalised gifts.

If you fancy putting the face of someone you love on a Christmas bauble this year then you’ve come to the right place! I put this post together with the help of Funky Pigeon’s range of first Christmas gifts and with the exclusive code JO20 you can get 20% off baubles, cushions, snow globes, and photo blocks until December 23rd.

This Christmas will be our first with baby Joey, which opens up lots of opportunities for personalised ‘baby’s first Christmas’ items. Joey is adorable – put him on a personalised cushion and seriously, what’s not to love?

Personalised cushion

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Yep, that’s right. Who doesn’t want a life free from ‘worrying about vaginal inconveniences’? It’s a quote from the Silk’n website and the turn of phrase made me smile. I pictured trying to get into a car park, late for a meeting, and being blocked by a row of inconveniently placed vaginas.

It’s not that obviously.

What it actually refers to is all of those issues that come with age, childbirth and menopause – weakening vaginal walls, urinary incontinence, diminished sexual pleasure – all those really FUN things that we experience as women. God, it’s a great life isn’t it?

You may remember that a while ago I went and had my vagina zapped at a clinic in London to tackle the same issues, and as great as it was, that was a one off treatment that only lasted for around 18 months. It was also pricey and had to be done by an expert. The Silk’n Tightra has a similar aim, but it’s the first of these kind of ‘women’s intimate health’ devices that you can use at home. It’s also a lot more affordable – buy it direct from the Silk’n website at the moment for £309.

Silk’n Tightra uses clinically tested and proven Bi-Polar Radiofrequency energy – the same technology that’s used a lot in facial treatments to tighten and rejuvenate skin. Home facial devices have become increasingly popular as an alternative to paying for expensive clinical treatments, and the Silk’n Tightra is just like this, only for your downstairs bits.

Here’s a proper video explaining exactly how it works, in case my incredibly high tech explanation wasn’t enough:

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When you close your eyes and think about the best bits of Christmas, what do you see?

*closes eyes and smells mulled wine*

It’s probably not the frantic gift buying and wrapping, or the vast amounts of cooking and washing up. Chances are it’s not even the presents. It’s more a feeling isn’t it? The wrapping paper has been squeezed into the recycling, the leftover turkey is in the fridge, and everyone is snuggled up on the sofa. Perhaps there’s a chocolate orange casually placed on your lap, (just in case, because you never know when you might need a chocolate orange), and you’ve just found a film that everyone’s excited to watch.

You take a big happy sigh, a swig of your Baileys, give your kids a squeeze and everything’s good. That’s the kind of feeling that I get when I think of Christmas.

You can’t buy those kind of moments though can you? You can’t give someone the gift of a snuggly evening on the sofa.

Or can you?!

DUM DUM DUM DUM!

(That was me making a dramatic noise.)

You can make a jolly good start at it by getting the family one of these family movie advent calendars from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment:

Sony family movie advent calendar View Post

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There are a lot of things Belle doesn’t like – courgettes, food that’s been near courgettes, balloons, fireworks, other people – but when she likes something, she really likes it. Two things she likes happened on the same day last week when we went for a night away at Solent Hotel and Spa in Fareham, near Southampton.

Solent hotel review

The first was a back massage. You might be surprised that Belle likes a back massage given that being touched or too close to people is one of the issues that comes with her sensory processing disorder, but actually having that kind of firm pressure contact can have a very positive effect on her. She likes tight hugs (from me) and she sleeps every night with a weighted blanket, so I guess it’s a similar sensation.

A back massage where you only have to wander down from your hotel room in what might well be the comfiest robe known to mankind, (she begged me to buy it to take it home), is even better as there’s no need to even go outside. (‘Outside’ is on Belle’s ‘do not like’ list.)

The Solent Hotel and Spa has the classic pool, sauna, steam room, jacuzzi set up, as well as a separate area for treatment rooms, plus a gym. I’ve never really understood people who go on holiday and go to the gym, but each to their own I guess. Everything was very clean and although the hotel seemed busy, I never saw more than about half a dozen people in the pool area at any one time, so you had that lovely relaxed, exclusive feel.

Solent spa review View Post

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Did you know that this week – November 11th – 15th – is Anti-Bullying Week? The theme this year is ‘Change Starts With Us’, and the goal is to help parents, teachers and children work together to take collective responsibility to stop bullying.

As a parent though it’s tough to know how best to approach it. I was never seriously bullied at school, but my mum’s answer to anybody picking on me, name calling or things like that, was to tell me to just ignore them. ‘They’re just jealous’, she always said. I suspect that was a lie, but it stood me in good stead.

At the other end of the spectrum you have those parents who say to fight back, that the only way to stop a bully is by giving them a taste of their own medicine, but two wrongs don’t make a right do they? Dealing with a bullying by punching them in the face doesn’t feel like a solid plan to me.

So what should you do if you think your child is being bullied? What can you say to reassure and support them and what practical steps can you take to tackle bullying? Today I’ve got Simon Benn in, the UK’s first Children’s Happiness Coach, to give us some tips – 11 things in fact that you need to know if your child is being bullied. Simon has years of experience working with children across the UK and further afield, helping them and their parents to build resilience and immunity to bullying.

Here’s what Simon has to say…

bully coach

I’ve helped more than 1,600 children understand how to be happy and what I’ve learned is that when it comes to being bullied, how the parent responds is one of the most important factors in the determining the outcome and future happiness of the child.  So, if your child is being bullied, here are 11 things you need to know as a parent.    View Post

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Today I have another post from Jon at The Money Shed, as his money saving and making blogs, like this one about how to make money online, are always popular. If you have any questions, leave a comment and Jon will get back to you.

There’s no doubt that online shopping is KING when it comes buying the products you want. There’s also no question that Amazon is the go to website for many people looking to buy things. With over 90% of UK Shoppers now using Amazon I don’t see things going back to how they used to be anymore!

I still remember in the late 90s when Amazon first appeared and had nothing but books for sale and even those took about 4-5 days to reach you!

Now you can buy anything from TVs and laptops to groceries and spa weekends! And with Amazon Prime available in most UK cities you can get whatever you need the very same day you order it!

But what can you do to help make things cheaper on Amazon for you?  Here are 3 top tips to make sure you are always getting what you want at the lowest price available on there!

Use a Discount Finder

Amazon is a website where you can spend a lot of time searching around and playing with filters to get the biggest discount on the products you want. But what if they could all be done before you head to the site, or better still, automatically!

There are some fantastic tools out there like The Money Shed’s Amazon Discount Finder which will let you choose which item you want and how much discount you are looking to get (the more the better!) and then will take you straight through to Amazon with those discounts already applied!

how to save money on Amazon

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I had a press release land in my inbox last week that I’ve been mulling over for a while now. It was based on a survey of a few thousand people*, asking them whether or not they snoop on their partner via phones or other devices, and if they’ve ever deleted content so that their partner doesn’t see it.

It also asked people whether or not they trusted their partner.

Just that, straight up, do they trust them.

Now you’d hope that this figure would be pretty high – you wouldn’t be in a relationship with someone you didn’t trust would you?

Apparently you would. While 67% of men said they trusted their partners, which honestly felt bad enough to me already, only 28% of women agreed.

TWENTY EIGHT PERCENT!

Really? Do only just over a quarter of us trust our partners?? I can only pray for a skewed sample otherwise I despair of humanity.

Is my partner checking my phone? View Post

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We are in Ireland this week, partly for a gig that Belle went to last night and partly for Halloween. We were over for Halloween last year and discovered that Ireland goes in for Halloween in a big way. When we went over to friends of my sister’s for trick or treating we found an estate positively FESTOONED in spooky garlands, fake cobwebs and garish pumpkin themed decorations.

Inside the house was even more spooky. Rather than an unenthusiastic clump of parents sulking in the corner while the kids went door to door threatening the neighbours and gathering Halloween themed Haribo there was a full on party – every adult seemed to be wearing an intricate, well thought out costume and the whole matter was taken very seriously. One dad was even dressed up as Banksy’s shredded painting.

Fine. I’m okay with that.

What I’m not okay with is the trend for all women’s Halloween costumes to essentially be that of ‘sexy prostitute’.

We had a look around the shops today to try and pick something out for me, as I hadn’t had any space in my suitcase to bring something with me, and honestly I was just blown away by the women’s Halloween costumes. It was hard to remember sometimes that I was in a fancy dress shop and not some kind of low rate backstreet porn shop.

You can’t apparently just be a pirate, you have to be a ‘sexy pirate’ tottering about on deck in high heels, a mini skirt and suspenders, which is hardly practical is it? Fancy dressing up as a mummy? Nope, no full length bandages for you – you can be a ‘sexy mummy’ though if you like, which is probably just a scrap or two of sheet strategically draped so as not to be completely illegal. ‘Sexy school girl’ always feels like the most disturbing, especially for children’s parties.

My absolute favourite in the shop we went in today was this one:

women's halloween costumes

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It’s no secret that I once cut my front lawn with a pair of scissors.

I was maybe 20 years old and living for the first time alone with Bee, who must have been about three. It was around the same time that I had a couple of candles to light the kitchen because I couldn’t afford to replace the strip light when it blew, so a lawnmower wasn’t exactly top of my list of priorities. When I say it like that it sounds rather Dickensian, but honestly I don’t think I minded the lighting. Who doesn’t love a candle for a bit of atmosphere?

The lawn wasn’t massive either – it was just the little patch outside the front of our tiny house – but it had grown to embarrassing lengths, the kind of length that makes you feel bad about yourself every time you come home and have to look at it while you open the front door and run inside as quickly as possible.

As I’ve got older I’ve got much better at doing sensible grown up things like mowing the lawn, but it’s still not one of my most favourite jobs, and if I don’t keep on top of it it can quickly slip back to those ‘get in the front door quick and avoid eye contact with the neighbours’ days.

The last month or so has been like that.

Bosch Rotak 34 lawnmower review

We’ve had all of this random rain, which is always tricky for lawns, and the house is north facing so it’s hard for the grass to dry out properly between showers unless the weather is really warm. Then I had that broken leg to contend with… not really on the leg thing, I’m just making excuses.

It wasn’t horrendous, but it wasn’t not GOOD exactly, especially around the edges, which were distinctly bushy. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with SockShop

Socks are like peas.

Peas are underrated in the vegetable world, but are incredibly versatile, can jazz up the blandest of dinners and are VERY tasty. Socks are just the same, apart from the tasty bit. Socks just sit there, balled up at the back of your drawer, when they could be making a massive impact on your wardrobe, breathing new life into old outfits.

To make the point, I challenged Belle, who has far more imagination and fashion sense that me, to style a working week’s worth of outfits, based around five different pairs of socks from the bamboo range at SockShop. Bamboo is a brilliant material for socks. It’s super soft, has natural anti-bacterial properties and thermoregulates – helping your feet stay warm even when it’s cold outside. SockShop sells a huge range of bamboo socks, including lots of novelty socks and a rainbow socks collection, where 20% of every sale goes to the LGBT Foundation.

My hope is that Belle’s sock styling will inspire you to take your socks more seriously, and that by the end of this post you’ll be desperate to enter my competition to win £30 to spend at SockShop and bring some new sock sassiness to your own wardrobe.

Let’s take a look at Belle’s looks…

Monday – the sassy ankle sock

It’s Monday, you’re feeling the back to school vibes, but rather than get down in the dumps about it, why not embrace it with a pair of cute ankle socks and shiny black patent shoes? These super sweet pink ankle socks have cushioned soles, so they’re a comfy way to start the week. View Post

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