In collaboration with PayPlan

Let’s think about the cost of single parenting shall we? There’s the relentless pressure of being solely responsible for bringing up children, self-neglect, money spent on treats to alleviate guilt over them not having two decent parents, helping them become independent, ultimate loss of sanity

I jest!

(Sort of.)

This post is actually more about the financial cost of being a single parent, inspired by research from PayPlan, a debt advice service, into the unfair costs of activities and days out for single parent families.

Generally you might think that being a single parent would be cheaper – there is only one of you after all – but the reality is that it’s anything but. For starters you still need pretty much the same sized house, and your bills are basically the same, save for the 25% discount on council tax. Your children need all the same stuff. The difference is though that you’re paying for it ALL BY YOURSELF.*

In my case I did save a fair bit of money after my last partner moved out, but that was more about his slapdash approach to his own (and therefore my) finances. He also wasn’t the father of either of my children (the scandal!) so probably not quite the same anyway.

In terms of days out specifically, it has definitely been my experience that you miss out on discounts as a single parent family, as ‘family tickets’ for things tend to be based on a family of two adults and multiple children. The research from Payplan, which is summarised in the infographic below, backs up my own experiences.

Now you might look at the results and think ‘Okay, fair enough though, if you’re going on ‘cost per adult’ then obviously it’s going to be more for single parents as you don’t have anyone to split it with’, but if you have a look further down in the infographic you’ll see that PayPlan has also worked it out on a cost per head basis. Under this way of working, single parents are STILL getting a raw deal – in every example the cost PER PERSON works out higher for single parents, because they don’t get to enjoy the discounts that result simply from being in a relationship.

It hardly seems fair does it? View Post

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This post is in collaboration with Poki – the ultimate playground for kids of all ages

As a mum, I’m often asked about the best way to entertain kids. (I’m an expert don’t you know.) Every child is, of course, different; your kids might thrill to a good movie or they might be bored stiff by Toy Story (honestly, it’s unlikely, but it does happen). How exactly you can keep your little ones entertained and enraptured through a wet and wild Sunday afternoon is the question asked by desperate parents everywhere.

If your kid is partial to the odd online game, then you might want to check out Poki. Poki.com is a gaming portal and website billing itself as an “online playground” for kids and adults alike. It’s designed to be inclusive, with something for everyone, whether you consider yourself a gamer or not. There is so much to choose from, you’re sure to find a game that your kids (or you) enjoy.

Bee and Belle are basically both grown ups now, but they both still enjoy playing games on their phones. They particularly love the games where you have to move people through a series of spa treatments or run a cafe, although I think Belle’s favourite aspect of this is getting me to have a go and then laughing when I burn all the burgers and all my customers walk out without paying.

To make playing online games a little easier, Poki have generously offered me a 32GB Fire HD 8 Tablet, worth £99, to giveaway. The Fire tablet is ideal for playing games – read on for more details of how to win!

Win a Fire tablet competition View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with hotukdeals

A few years ago now, back when I lived in Bristol, I had a boyfriend who was obsessed with hotukdeals.

I don’t just mean that he would check the site for offers before he bought something significant, I mean that he loved browsing, scrolling through the listings, just for fun. ‘Someone’s just found a half price patio set in an Asda in Doncaster!’ he would shout out, excitedly. It makes you wonder really how engaging I was as a girlfriend, but let’s brush over that.

He actually saved us a lot of money over the few years we lived together – or should I say hotukdeals did, because the beauty of the site is that you don’t actually do any of the research yourself, you just wait for other people to find the bargains, post about them, and then you swoop. Hotukdeals is a place for real consumers to share their stories, deals, vouchers. and tips. The purpose of the site is to encourage honest advice from genuine consumers, getting insight from other real people about hot deals and products.

There’s also an app, which is totally free and allows for on the go bargain hunting. You can also use the app to set keyword alerts, so if, for example, you’re after some LEGO for Christmas presents, you can get a notification as soon as a LEGO offer gets posted. I actually did a little project with them a couple of years ago, where I saved £527 on my Christmas shopping, so coupled with my obsessive boyfriend history I consider myself something of an expert.

When hotukdeals asked me then if I fancied using the site to discover some bargains for a garden makeover, I was PRIMED, ready to strike while the deal was hot. (Or, as it turned out in my case, while the half price barbecue was hot.) They’ve also given me two £50 vouchers to give away, so read on for more info on how to win those too.

My garden is one of my favourite bits of the house because it’s the area where I have made the most difference. The rest of the house was already redecorated and ready to go, but the garden was like a prison yard. I did a whole garden makeover post, complete with kitten in a wheelbarrow, if you want to check it out, and I’ve added a lot of plants along the way too. (It’s worth noting too that the plants from that second post are doing really well a year on – I’ve been really impressed with them.)

HotUKDeals garden offers

So I set about searching the garden section of hotukdeals for some garden bargains that would add to the tropical paradiseness of my garden.* View Post

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We were gifted spaces on this Boo Cottage Botanicals workshop for the purposes of this review

When I was little, I used to make my own perfume.

I say ‘make my own perfume’ – what I actually used to do was collect up scattered rose petals that had fallen off the flowers, (or pick them off if I thought no one was looking), and put them in an old jam jar of water. The petals smelt so beautiful, I was sure if I could just gather enough that I would be able to turn my jam jar water into rose scented perfume.

As anyone who has tried this, (and I’m imagining it’s a lot of you), will know, it doesn’t work. You just get rank old petals in a jar of water. Still, it’s fun to try when you’re eight years old or so.

It was with with kind of ‘anything is possible if you have enough rose petals’ attitude that we rocked up one Sunday morning a few weeks ago for a workshop with Boo Cottage Botanicals. We were doing the ‘natural skincare workshop: balms, bombs and body butters‘ and it promised that we would leave with a whole range of skincare products that we’d made ourselves from scratch.

I’d taken Belle along with me because she loves skincare and is always mashing avocados late at night to smear on her face. She told me she only does that out of poverty (not sure where she thinks the avocados come from) but regardless she DID enjoy it. She has a certain way of being when she gets really engrossed in an activity – a serious, efficient look on her face and a nice straight back – and she had this throughout the morning.

Make your own skincare workshops View Post

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This is a guest post from Bee, who was sent a gluten free apple cake from Sponge for the purposes of this review. 

Gluten free cake reviews

I need to talk to you all about the best (gluten free) cake on the whole of the internet. I say internet because my sort of sister-in-law made me a really nice gluten free birthday cake that was definitely as good as this one, so they have to take joint first place in the very important cake league table in my mind.

Anyway, when I was about six months pregnant I was becoming really ill after food and I soon worked out that wheat, and more specifically gluten, was the culprit. It took a couple of months of going cold turkey but it finally helped my skin breakouts, heartburn, digestive issues and a host of other crappy stuff I had been dealing with that I had just put down to pregnancy symptoms.

I optimistically thought that when I gave birth I would regain my tolerance to gluten but alas, it was not to be. I’m quite sad about it because even though I like feeling good in myself and not hideously ill, there are so many things I miss that contain wheat and other gluteny stuff. (Looking at you, Starbucks fruit toast.)

‘Free from’ alternatives have come a long way in recent years but gluten free stuff is still really hit and miss and with it often being so expensive I feel reluctant to try too many new things in case it’s a total waste of money. That’s why when Sponge offered me one of their gluten free cakes to try I jumped at the chance.

Gluten free apple cake View Post

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Gifted product

Is there anything better in the whole wide world than a good cup of tea?

Okay, so winning the lottery or marrying the love of your life or getting stranded on a desert island full of cats or something, but APART from those things… Is there anything better than a cup of tea?

Win tea competition

And before you say anything, yes, my milk jug is very cool, thank you. It’s part of my collection of ‘milk jugs in the shape of chickens where the milk comes out of their beaks’. It’s fun because it looks like the chicken is throwing up in your drink. It’s a fairly niche collection, but I like a challenge.

The tea that my chicken was ‘helping’ with today was a rather lovely earl grey from Blue Tea Box. I was excited to try them because their coffee – Blue Coffee Box – is my favourite coffee of all time, not even an exaggeration. The tea is a new strand to the business, offering rare and single-origin teas, ethically sourced from across the globe by specialist tea merchants.

Blue Tea Box works on a subscription model and you can choose either one large bag or three smaller bags delivered to your door every month, either for yourself or as a gift. Tell Blue Tea Box what kind of tea you normally like and your tea concierge selects your perfect teas. Fancy!

Your tea comes beautifully packaged in a letterbox friendly box and includes information abut the teas and tasting notes. View Post

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I’ve been wanting to make a ham and cucumber pizza for ages now.

Every time I make one of my postcard lists it gets transferred – ‘homemade ham and cucumber pizza’ tacked on the bottom of every scrape of paper on my desk. It’s been getting a bit annoying to be honest, and as pizza accounts for two of Belle’s favourite foods (delivered and non-delivered) and eating pizza while watching TV has been shown to be the secret of happiness, I thought it was about time I got on with it.

Ham and cucumber has always been one of my favourite food combinations. Legend has it that as a child it was all I would eat, and that small plates of ham and cucumber would be left strategically around the house for me to happen upon and nibble. Still now it’s probably my favourite ever sandwich – soft white bread, real butter, ham and cucumber. You can’t beat it.

In my teens I took it to the next level and discovered the joy that is the toasted ham and cucumber sandwich. You don’t toast it as in put it in a sandwich toaster – that would be rank – you just toast the bread and then make it like a regular sandwich, only with toast. This variant actually works very well without the ham – just butter and chunky slices of cucumber.

If you’re screwing up your face at this point then all I can say is don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. I remember making it once for this boyfriend,* when I was 21, and him looking at me very suspiciously. (He was the man who introduced me to exotic things like pesto and freshly ground black pepper remember.) He ate it though, and was impressed. I won him over with my toasted cucumber sandwich skills.

I’m also well known, amongst my own children at least, for one of my favourite parenting mantras – ‘have a bit of chopped up cucumber on the side’. Over the years, when I haven’t been able to get them to eat vegetables, I could always rely on them accepting a bit of chopped up cucumber on the side of whatever we happened to be eating.

For a long time then I’ve wondered why no one makes a ham and cucumber pizza. We have ham and pineapple, ham and sweetcorn – why not ham and cucumber? Like the toasted sandwich, I’m not suggesting you cook the cucumber, rather that it gets added before serving, like so many pizzas seem to do nowadays with rocket.

Chopped up on the side. Sort of.

ham and cucumber pizza

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An ‘immersive dining experience’ sounds almost dangerous doesn’t it? Don’t worry though, if you visit Chambers_ you won’t get your face held down in a bowl of soup or anything, it’s much more fun than that. In fact, it’s not just immersive, it’s MULTI-DIMENSIONAL.

Oooh!

Chambers_ immersive dining review

First up though, two questions.

  • Do you like food?
  • Do you like mysteries?

If you answered YES to both of those, and did a little twitch or smile or something similar at the thought of what the mystery might entail, then Chambers_ is definitely something you would enjoy. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Belling

homemade strawberry yogurt lolly recipe

‘What snacks have we got?’ says a muffled voice from the kitchen.

It’s Belle, her head in the fridge.

If you have teenagers you might recognise the kitchen snack cry. They seem to have bottomless stomachs requiring constant filling. Although I provide her with an array of wholesome and varied meals, (honestly I do), Belle seems to constantly have a snack on the go. She’s often to be found in the kitchen creating elaborate platters of treats – cucumber, carrot batons, crisps and dips, fruit and yogurt and big bowls of noodles. One of her favourite things, if she’s feeling particularly decadent, is strawberries covered in melted dark chocolate.

Strawberries are her favourite fruit and normally I spend so much money keeping her in berries that this summer we’ve grown our own. It’s perfect for Belle because she’s quite fussy about freshness and texture, and being able to pick just a handful straight from the plant when she wants them is ideal. Next year I’m considering a small strawberry farm. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Indigo Herbs

Vegan coconut cupcake recipe

God, there are so many words to like in that sentence aren’t there? Vegan piña colada cupcakes with Malibu buttercream. Where to even begin??

Let’s start by taking a moment for me to get over the Malibu buttercream bit. It’s about 10.30am as I’m writing this, I’ve finished making the cakes, and I’ve just had to bury the piping bag with all the leftovers in the bin as a personal frosting intervention. I was literally standing at the kitchen window, first thing in the morning, squeezing Malibu buttercream into my mouth from a bag.

DAMN. It was so good.

To be honest, if you just wanted to skip ahead and make a bowl of frosting, close the curtains, and put on a DVD of the Golden Girls I think you’d have a pretty good evening, but if you do want to faff about making the cakes as well then you’re very welcome. It does all work together well and the pineapple centre allows you to pretend you’re having one of your five a day. (Possibly two if you count the cherry.) View Post

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Advertisement feature

Thai massamn lamb curry

No, ‘Slowthai massaman lamb curry’ is NOT a typo, honestly.

Let me explain.

I’ve been working with the ‘Lamb. Try it, Love it‘ campaign for a while now, creating all kinds of yummy lamb recipes, including Greek lamb meatballs, Game of Thrones rack of lamb, (a must see in my opinion) and a classic Irish stew.

When I heard that my lovely lamb chums were going to be at Kendal Calling, a festival in the Lake District that’s on from 25-28 July, with the ‘Lamb Bam Lounge’, well… it would have been rude not to create a festival inspired lamb dish wouldn’t it? Nothing beats being sat out on the grass on a sunny day with a big bowl of something yummy from a festival food truck. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with the ŠKODA Parent Taxi App

Earlier this week I introduced the ŠKODA Parent Taxi App. You remember? It had that video in it, of me trying to look super casual and cool behind the wheel? Go back and have a read if you’ve forgotten.

Basically it’s an app, created by ŠKODA, that allows you to track your journeys using GPS and ‘charge’ your kids in chores for driving them around. ŠKODA loaned us a car for a couple of weeks, (which was an absolute joy to drive – I love a ŠKODA), and we put the app to the test.

Skoda Parent Taxi App

Now I COULD just talk here about how annoying it is as a parent to have to drive your kids around to meet their friends or go to hockey practice or whatever, and how the app teaches them the value of time and money, but actually our relationship with our car is a bit more complex than this. I thought this might be interesting to explore, as I suspect that for most people, parenting a teenager isn’t quite as simple as you may have been led to believe.

(That sounds a bit ominous doesn’t it? I feel like this post has the potential to get very deep very quickly.) View Post

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