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Last week I tidied my bedroom. Tidying my bedroom makes me feel like I’m 15 years old because in my mind grown-ups are meant to have the sort of bedrooms that somehow stay tidy. Grown ups put their pants in the laundry basket before they get into bed and definitely don’t leave them on the floor.

*looks shifty*

What I concluded in the process of tidying my bedroom was that I simply have too much stuff in there. I have lovely built in wardrobes, so it’s not like I’m short of basic storage, but there was just so much clutter everywhere, piles of toiletries and books and a large old bedside table with a huge drawer full of cables for phones I no longer have and dead batteries and old plasters.

Rather than just tidying it then, I did a proper sort out. I gathered up all the coins and old hair bands, I threw out rubbish and I filled EIGHT bags to take to the charity shop. EIGHT! I don’t even know how I did that really, I don’t even have a big bedroom. I think it was mainly clearing out the shelves in the top of my wardrobes, which I’d probably not looked at since I had the wardrobes built. This made space for sensibly stored bags and shoes and suddenly the room itself was freed up to become the tranquil oasis of calm that I always want my bedroom to be.

Then it was time for the fun bit.

I’d been asked to team up with Very, who are honestly a bit of a mecca for furniture and homewares. I didn’t realise that as well as lots of own brand stuff they actually carry all kinds of other brands, so as well as choosing one of their lovely rattan bedside tables from the sideboards section I also picked a gorgeous solid oak bench from Cox & Cox and lots of lovely bits and bobs to accessorise with too.

I had a very jolly couple of hours carefully arranging plants and ornaments and I am extremely pleased with the result.

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 This post is a collaboration with Stagecoach, but all thoughts and experiences are my own

Belle and I very much enjoy a day out, but there are two factors lately that are making day trips feel like a lot less fun than they should be.

One is the driving. I don’t know if it’s just that I’ve been really busy this year, or that I’m getting old or something, but the thought of getting in the car again and driving for God knows how long just to have to drive all the way back again isn’t getting me excited. Secondly of course there’s the cost of fuel. When we got our car three years ago it cost about £60 to fill up. Last week it cost me £93. I’ve never been someone who doesn’t go somewhere because of the petrol cost but it’s hard to ignore at the moment isn’t it?

So, I don’t want to drive and petrol is too expensive, so what to do??

COME IN STAGECOACH!

To be honest I never think about buses. I think because I’m prone to travel sickness I’m a little wary, but since I discovered Dramamine while touring, my travel has been pretty revolutionised. I have checked emails in the BACK OF A CAR! Who’d have ever thought it! I’ve got the coach from Taunton to Bristol airport before, but I’ve never thought of going on a bit further and into the centre of Bristol.

I decided to take on the Stagecoach bus trip challenge and plan a day out by coach.

I started off on the Stagecoach journey planner, investigating the route to Bristol. The coach that goes to Bristol from Taunton is the Falcon, travelling between Plymouth and Bristol, all day every day. It has plug sockets and Wifi, comfy seats and seatbelts – very different to what you might think of when you think bus.

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Despite being a parent now for nearly 27 years – *gulps* – it took me until my kids were 16 and 9 to get around to buying life insurance. (Even worse, they were 19 and 12 before I made a will, but let’s not talk about that.)

I don’t know what it was about the life insurance, but somehow for 16 years it just kept slipping further and further down the never ending list of Important Things To Do. In my head I think it was super complicated, and possibly involved me doing some kind of invasive medical exam, and so I shoved it to one side and tried not to think about death.

Time passed though, relationships ended, and I came to realise that if I died, that was that, there wasn’t going to be a wealthy family to step in, my kids would be on their own. I did the briefest of research, took out a very cheap and basic ten year policy, and imagined that by the time that finished and Belle was 19, they would both have left home and be completely financially independent. Also we might all get about on hoverboards.

But wait a minute, what’s that you say? Belle IS 19 and we AREN’T all on hoverboards??

So here we are, it’s ten years later, my life insurance has expired but somehow both of my children are still in some way financially supported by me, plus now I own a house with 25 years left on the mortgage and I have four pets.

If I were to die tomorrow, who’s keeping the dog in luxury treats?? Now more than ever it turns out, I need to know that everyone is going to be taken care of financially if I die.

life insurance for parents

I’ve even become a Granny, which was something I wasn’t expecting. I chip in for a couple of things for Joey every month and so now it’s not even just my own children that I need to think about, now there’s this little cutie too. View Post

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I was catching up on Married At First Sight Australia yesterday and they were having their final dates – the chance for the men to show the women exactly how romantic they are, presumably at the expense of the show as for some of them it involved yachts. There is also always some kind of charcuterie board involved, which makes me wonder how much choice they actually get, but you get the gist.

Watching the dates play out I couldn’t help but cringe. All of the men were so pleased with themselves, scattering rose petals left, right and centre, running baths and offering up the charcuterie boards like they’d spent the afternoon hand curing the meats. Some of the women lapped it up, others looked a little more awkward as their husbands ran around pointing out all of the romantic things they’d done.

‘Look! White roses! Your favourite! Look at the wine I chose because I wrote it down when you mentioned you liked it!’

Now don’t get me wrong, I love it when people pay attention and remember the things I say I like. I really love it. It makes me feel seen and heard and I love that someone wants to make me feel like that. It’s one of the ways I show someone that I like them too, and so I appreciate it. What makes it feel less special though is when it’s all pointed out to you, like you’re then obliged to notice and be impressed.

I like more romance more subtle than that.

What is romance View Post

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I know that no one cares about those ‘God I’m so sorry I’ve not blogged in so long! How you must have missed me!’ posts, because let’s face it, you didn’t even notice I was gone did you?

I bloody knew it. How rude.

The hiatus has been for reasons two-fold. One, I seem to live my life on Instagram stories and forget that some people still read actual long sentences rather than just looking at pictures of me having a cup of tea in the garden. Two, I’ve been on tour! Doesn’t that sound glam? I say it casually to men on Tinder – ‘Oh gosh sorry for the slow reply, I’ve been on tour you know!’ – and it FEELS terrible glam to me. It actually has been a lot of fun, although I’ve learnt that dressing rooms are really way less luxurious than I had imagined them to be. Mainly it’s just a few plastic chairs and a shower in the corner. More hospital waiting room that backstage home to the stars.

I’ve been the host of a book tour for the Sunday Times bestselling, all round very funny and clever Gill Sims, who writes the Why Mummy series of books and has just realised her fifth novel, The Saturday Night Sauvignon Sisterhood, which, fun fact, I was only the third person to read. It’s very good. I cried twice – once sad tears and once happy tears – which isn’t bad considering my daughter Bee has always maintained I have a heart of stone. View Post

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best skincare routine

I took Belle with me on tour last week for our show in Solihull. We were getting into bed in the hotel and I was just getting comfy when she looked across as me accusingly.

‘Are you not even going to take your make-up off?’ she asked horrified.

‘No,’ I said, ‘should I?’

She gave me a wipe. Apparently the answer was yes.  View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with HyperJar

I’ve never been very good at pocket money. When my kids were younger I would start off with great intentions, and then I’d have a day where I’d feel all carefree and expansive and like nothing really mattered, so I might as well buy them treats.

My children quickly cottoned onto these moods and called them ‘put anything in the trolley’ days. With Belle now, even though she’s 19 and earns her own money, it still happens. In Tesco just last week I somehow ended up buying her the official Taylor Swift magazine. Guilt I suspect, for the fact that I was going away. She saw weakness and she made the most of it. Good for her.

When Belle was younger we did have a brief fling with a pocket money app where kids could get their own card. Belle loved this, because she’s always very much doing things like pressing the buttons for me at cashpoints, but the fees for it made it seem a bit silly – why was I spending twice as much as I needed every month, just for the sake of a few pounds on a card? Surely it made more sense to just let Belle have it all in cash? I think we ended up actually opening a full blown bank account in the end, just because it was cheaper.

If your kids aren’t old or wise enough to have their own bank account or debit card but you still like the idea of teaching them about money and how to save and spend it, then HyperJar could be the answer.

HyperJar is a totally free money app that adults can use to budget, save for specific items and events, and even earn bonuses on spending. It works very visually by allocating money to different jars, which you create according to how you want to spend your money. I know finances can be daunting and that many people, including Belle, find something visual much easier to understand than spreadsheets.

How HyperJar works

For the grown ups, HyperJar works like this:

  • You transfer money into your HyperJar account. (This money is held by the Bank of England, not HyperJar, so it’s quite safe.)
  • You set up jars for different areas of spending, like food shopping, treats, or long term savings like holidays.
  • When you want to spend money from your jars, just link the jar to your HyperJar card, (this can be real or virtual), and spend directly from the jar.
  • You can cut out the pre-transaction linking part by setting up retailers to automatically link to a particular jar. For example you could link Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Aldi to your food jar and anytime you spend money with one of them it will automatically come from that jar.

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The Roomba i3+ robot vacuum was a gift from iRobot. All views my own.

One of the only times I lament being single is when I’m doing boring household chores like vacuuming or putting out the bins. It’s because in my mind a husband would be someone with whom I could share housework equally, someone who would say ‘I noticed the kitchen floor needed a clean so be careful in case it’s still wet’ and ‘don’t be silly, put your feet up, I’ll take the cats for their vaccinations, I already made the appointment.’

And then I laugh cynically to myself because I remember that actually being in a relationship wouldn’t be like that at all. Being in a relationship, in my experience at least, involves waiting weeks for your partner to vaguely LOOK in the direction of the kitchen floor, seething quietly with resentment, and then doing it yourself, loudly, to make a point.

Much better just to get a robot vacuum, do away with the bitterness AND get to watch what you want on the TV.

Robot vacuum review

My robot vacuum even matches my carpet – how chic!

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I was gifted these noise cancelling earbuds from QuietOn. All opinions my own.

On Thursday morning I am off on the first leg of a two month long tour. That sounds terribly fancy, like I might actually be famous or something, so I should hastily add that it’s not my tour – I’m just the host for Gill Sims.* I say ‘just the host’ but really it’s a pivotal role right? I’m sure Michael Parkinson wouldn’t call himself just a host, and obviously that’s the sort of interview skills we’re going to be looking at it, given that I’ve never done it before.

(Can you tell from that slightly frantic introduction that I’m a bit nervous??)

*Takes a deep, soothing breath*

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been making packing lists and bulk buying dog food and fretting about Belle and obviously taking on more work than I can physically fit in, and it’s all going fine, tra la la la la. One of the things on my packing list is, rather conveniently, a nifty product I’ve just been sent to try out from QuietOn – the QuietOn 3 active noise cancelling earbuds.

They come in this dinky little carry case – isn’t it adorable?

QuietOn noise cancelling earbuds

One of my biggest worries about the tour, aside from the obvious concerns like making a fool of myself on stage and drinking too much and having to be Parkinson with a hangover, is sleep. Sleep doesn’t exactly come easily to me at the best of times, and since having children – i.e. the last 27 years – I’ve been a light and restless sleeper, easily woken by small noises. This is fine of course when your kids are babies and you need to be alert for lions and what not, but when one is 19 and the other doesn’t even live at home anymore, it feels like a bit of a pointless skill.

Sleeping away from home can be even worse – I’m always alert for new noises, and traffic can be a real issue. I like sleeping with the window open and can do this at home because we live somewhere quiet, but away from home, in large cities, I’m not going to be waking up to birdsong and a babbling brook am I?

(Note we don’t have a babbling brook at home, I’d just like one.)

Well, I don’t need to worry about that now do I? Thanks to QuietOn I should be looking at quiet, restful sleep whichever Premier Inn I rock up at.  View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Charlie

I spent a very satisfying 20 minutes in bed this morning with Charlie.

I know, sounds saucy doesn’t it? I haven’t taken a fast but efficient lover though, I was actually discovering some NEWS. I say it in capitals because really THE NEWS is not my thing. For a while a few years ago I thought I would try to take an interest and so I set my alarm to wake me up to Radio 4, but after a few weeks I was just so depressed. The awful news seeping into my subconscious from around the world was just too much.

Over the last couple of years it’s become even harder to take anything positive away from the news – it’s been a literal daily death count – and as a form of self-preservation I’ve had to step away completely. I have too much to manage in my own life, I don’t feel able to soak up everything else around me, especially when it’s stuff I can’t do anything about. I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds the news overwhelming?

The downside of filtering out all news of course is that you can feel like a bit of an idiot when people are talking about something big, that clearly everyone in the world knows about but you. ‘Ukraine?’ you say, ‘something going on with them is it?’

Okay, so it’s not quite that bad, but it definitely leaves you feeling ignorant, in all senses of the word when it’s a humanitarian issue.

How do you filter the news though? How can you make sure you have an awareness of what’s going on but still preserve your sanity? How do you pick out the stories that interest you without getting swamped in bad news?

Cue Charlie – your personal journalist.

Charlie is an AI bot who helps you sift through the news in a neutral, healthy way, giving you a selection of headlines and letting you find out more about any that take your interest. It’s a bit like having a partner sat in bed next to you, scrolling the news sites so that you don’t have to. They pick out things that might interest you and read out highlights, sparing you all of the anxiety inducing doom and gloom clickbait that news sites use to increase traffic and revenue.

Charlie - your personal journalist View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Brew Company

I was talking to my brother-in-law this week about the importance of joy, and was telling him about how much joy I can take from the very smallest of things. ‘Honestly,’ I said, ‘I can go to bed excited about having a nice cup of coffee the next morning.’

And it’s true. The ritual of either spending time making myself a cup of good coffee or treating myself to one somewhere out and about is a seemingly small thing that can have a huge impact. Factor in meeting up with a friend or family member to share your coffee with and it takes on even more significance. Suddenly that simple cup of coffee has become an experience, an opportunity to exchange news, to share worries and to feel closer to someone. I’ve definitely felt that over the last couple of years during lockdowns, when so many of my meetups with friends have been spent walking through parks, our hands wrapped around takeaway cups of coffee.

When you think about it, a cup of coffee is pretty special isn’t it? Buying someone a cup of coffee MEANS something.

Which is why I think this Mother’s Day could be the time to switch it up a bit. Forget flowers and chocolates and buy the special mum in your life coffee from The Brew Company instead.

(Don’t worry if your mum isn’t a coffee drinker, they do tea too.)

Coffee from The Brew Company

The idea behind The Brew Company’s Coffeebrewer range is simple – premium quality ground coffee that you brew in the bag, without the need for any kind of fancy coffee machine. The patented brewing system ensures a state-of-the-art coffee infusion that gives a result that’s a bit of a crossover between pour-over coffee and a French press. Basically you get to be your own barista, wherever you are – at work, travelling, or how about camping? I think they’d be brilliant for that. View Post

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Looking for plastic free Easter eggs this year? Or maybe you want a vegan Easter egg? I’ve picked out five of my favourites so you can enjoy your Easter treats guilt free.

best plastic free easter eggs

Happy nearly Easter!

I’m not in anyway religious, but I’m happy to jump on the bandwagon of any religious festival that requires the eating of chocolate eggs. Judge me if you will but there we are.

One thing that has always annoyed me though about Easter and Easter eggs in particular is all the waste that goes with them – all those chocolate eggs in huge plastic shells, just waiting for the wrappers to be torn off so that the plastic can get chucked in a lake and eaten by a pregnant dolphin, or whatever it is that happens to it. It’s definitely something like that. But then of course the fishing industry does more damage to fish than plastic, so perhaps veganism is really the answer. Not that Easter eggs normally have fish in them, but still, the principle is sound.

One really easy change you can make this Easter is simply to look out for plastic free or vegan Easter eggs, or ideally both! I’ve picked out five of my favourite options for you, plus if this has got you feeling the vegan Easter vibe why not have a go at making my vegan hot cross bun recipe?

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