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What did you want to be when you grew up?

Maybe you had a clear idea and knew exactly the path to follow, or perhaps you didn’t have much of a clue or felt uninspired by the choices available to you post-16?

Here’s me, still thinking about it. 42 isn’t too old right? There’s still time to decide? (Fingers crossed.)

T Levels

When I was making my choices post GCSE I didn’t really feel like it WAS much of a choice to be honest, you just picked the three A Levels that you thought you might enjoy the most and got on with it – French, German and maths in my case. I didn’t choose my A Levels with a particular career in mind and they didn’t offer me any opportunities to gain any real world experience or practical skills that employers might need, unless I was looking for a job where I had to give a three minute presentation about Francois Mitterrand, which seems unlikely.

At the time though it felt like A Levels were the only option.

Not any more.

Teenagers finishing their GCSEs nowadays have more options than ever before, (something I’m not sure I appreciated when Bee was 16, which I wrote about here), from more and more A Level subjects through to apprenticeships and vocational qualifications. As of this September there’s a brand new kid on campus too – T Levels.

If you have a child currently studying for GCSEs then you’re going to want to know about T Levels, so I’m here to answer some of your questions. View Post

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A friend asked me recently what my favourite thing is to do on my blog and I immediately showed her the pictures of the chocolate teacakes I had made the week before.

You know when you start to talk about something and you just kind of glow, and you know it’s something that makes you happy? I felt like that about the chocolate teacakes.

homemade chocolate teacakes

Although I don’t like the tedium of having to cook actual meals day in day out, I do love baking. I find it completely absorbing, I don’t think about anything else, my mind is focused on the weighing and measuring and pouring and mixing. I find I can get into a lovely, relaxed sort of trance state with baking, where I just waft around the kitchen in a cloud of flour, the world shrunk down to the size of a 9 inch cake tin.

It’s not even about eating it afterwards, (although I do eat a lot of mixture as a go – finger fulls of cake batter or melted chocolate and pinches of sweet biscuit dough), I just love the process.

I particularly enjoy recreating things that I know already, like when I made those homemade party rings, do you remember? Blimey, they turned out so much better than I ever thought they would. Or the homemade jammie dodgers? I was really pleased with those. View Post

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untold stories slummy single mummy

The last few months have been tough on the strongest of us. I’m not normally prone to anxiety, but coronavirus has hit me hard. Imagine dealing with a pandemic on top of a long term anxiety disorder and OCD. Then throw in leaving both of your children at university in a big city and going home to an empty nest. As you can imagine, things have not been easy lately for Jilly Mackenzie. I feel so honoured that she has chosen to share her experiences with us through my Untold Stories segment and that she feels courageous enough to share her name too. Please show Jilly some kindness and support by leaving a comment if you can. You can read more Untold Stories here.

…..

Today, I did the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I’ve had my share of really hard times, but this has just been the hardest day. Today was the day that I took my girls (20 and 18) to their student accommodation in Glasgow.

This year has definitely been hard on everyone, but two weeks ago, we had a totally unexpected event that just overwhelmed all of us. My eldest has been in a four-and-a-half year relationship with her boyfriend. A young man who we have loved as one of our own. But two weeks ago, after a short holiday with his parents, he ended the relationship via a text message (yes, you read that correctly, a text message). She was utterly blindsided, immediately came out in hives and within two days was on beta blockers and meds for a nasty IBS flare-up.

I watched my normally strong daughter turn into a completely heartbroken wreck.

I have felt so helpless watching her blame herself, sob herself to sleep, grapple with severe physical and emotional pain. There have been times that I’ve had to take myself off for a cry and also times I’ve had to restrain myself from turning up at his home and lecturing him about dumping her a week before they were meant to move back in together.

I have found the situation particularly hard as I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD). I also battle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), bouts of depression and IBS (yes! I get all the fun). The unwelcome arrival of Covid-19 just about broke me – all my coping mechanisms fled from my brain like a crowd of shoppers fleeing from a single cough in a supermarket (I submitted an Untold Story here about my marriage during coronavirus, which will explain a bit more). View Post

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A couple of weeks ago, on what seemed liked a perfectly ordinary Friday, a miracle happened in my kitchen.

I got a cake to rise.

Everyone was surprised, not least me when I tried to take it out of the oven and realised it had risen into the shelf above it. I managed to untangle it though, and took it out without dropping it or it collapsing or anything, so we were all good.

I am notoriously bad at getting large cakes to rise. I don’t know why, I follow all the tips, but they just don’t like me. My Victoria sponges come always come out looking more like giant biscuits and for the girls’ birthdays I’ve been known to make several cakes and stack them all on top of each other, just to try and create a normal looking birthday cake.

This rapsberry and dark chocolate ricotta cake though, I don’t know what it was, but wow, it was the height of an ACTUAL cake. A baking miracle.

raspberry and chocolate ricotta cake recipe

Look at that! Proper chunky.

This cake is slightly different to cakes I’ve made before in that it’s made with a tub of ricotta. Not JUST ricotta obviously, we’re not playing sandcastles, just ricotta as an extra. The ricotta does make for a a very soft, moist sponge, so perhaps this helped with the rising? Who knows. I’ll be making it again, that’s for sure.

The lemon zest is only one lemon but it goes a long way and is the perfect balance to the richness and sweetness of the dark chocolate and raspberries, even if I do say so myself. I like the raspberries and the chocolate being on the top of the cake – I think it makes it look fancy. View Post

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laminate kitchen flooring

Packing and moving kitchen appliances are one of the most difficult tasks in your moving process. No matter whether you are one of the most organized persons present in the world still, moving appliances is not an easy task if you do not have the right knowledge. It is recommended for you to hire iMoving.com local movers who can help you in moving appliances as it is important to professionally disconnect and safely pack all the appliances before the move. Make sure you start planning for the relocation weeks before the moving date to avoid any last-minute disasters.  

Cleaning 

To move your appliances, first of all, you should thoroughly clean each one of them. This will help in stopping staining and damaging blankets or cloth which you will be using to cover the appliances before loading them onto a moving truck.

Tips to move kitchen appliances!!!

The refrigerator and oven are the two main kitchen appliances that are present in almost all the home kitchens. Apart from these two large items, there are also several small appliances to move such as dishwashers, ice makers, and so on. This guide will help you to move all these items safely and without any damage.  

Procedure to follow to move a refrigerator!!! 

  1. First of all, clean all the contents present in the refrigerator. 
  2. Unplug the refrigerator 7 to 8 hours before shipping and let the freezer defrost.
  3. Remove the moisture by wiping the entire refrigerator using a cloth or tissue papers
  4. Remove all the shelves including the glass shelve of the refrigerator to pack them separately. 
  5. Don’t forget to empty the water reservoir and disconnect the water pipeline. 
  6. If there are any removable parts present in the refrigerator then remove those and pack separately. 
  7. Use tape to secure all the door corners of the refrigerator. 
  8. While shipping, secure the refrigerator using tie-downs in the truck and finally you can move your refrigerator securely. 

Procedure to move an oven!!!

Some people end up damaging the floor or the oven itself while moving an oven. If your oven is mounted on a wall, don’t try to move its own. Make sure you hire an electrician to do the task. First of all, don’t forget to turn off the switch of the oven and if you have a gas oven then switch off the main valve. The main valve is present at a point where the gas pipeline meets the wall. So, you can easily find the valve to switch off it.

 If there are any removable parts present in the oven, then please detach all these removable parts. Pack these removable parts carefully, cover those using towels so that they can be shipped securely. Make sure you use a dolly or a slide to load the oven in the truck else it might scratch the floor. 

Procedure to move a dishwasher!!!

The very first thing you have to do to move a dishwasher is to remove the dishes and crockery from inside of the dishwasher. If you are thinking that it is a waste of time to remove the dishes crockery from the dishwasher then you might end up by breaking them and this can also be a reason behind serious damage of the dishwasher. So, make sure you empty your dishwasher before moving. After removing all the dishes from it, clean it thoroughly from inside and outside. 

The next step you have to do is remove all the shelves and other baskets present in the dishwasher and pack them separately. A screw or bolts might be needed to remove these shelves from the dishwasher. Then detach the washing machine from it. Also, remove the water hose from it. Finally, you have disconnected the entire dishwasher. Now, secure the entire dishwasher using protective packaging and finally, the dishwasher is ready to ship. 

Procedure to move an ice maker!!! 

There are some ice makers which are portable and easier to ship while some others need special requirements to ship. Unplug the unit of the ice maker and drain the water from it. Let it sit idle for some time so it dries. Then pack it in a box and do padding all around with the foam. Wrap the entire ice maker in bubble wraps to avoid any kind of damage during the shipment. The pack-ice maker in a separate box if possible and if not, then don’t pack heavier items above it. 

Procedure to move a wine cooler!!!

To start with, empty the wine cooler. You can enjoy the remaining wine with your friends and family members during the move to have some crazy moments or you can also pack the remaining bottles separately with great care. Make sure you keep the wine at the right temperature so it would not damage. 

While making sure the movers you choose to allow you to move alcohol else you have to take it in your vehicle. Then pack the wine cooler in a separate box using bubble wraps and padding and finally your wine cooler is ready to move. 

When it comes on move, one of the most difficult tasks is to move kitchen appliances. Use the above-written guide to move the kitchen appliances.   

Use this guide and several moving apps to make your relocation planning successful. We wish you all the good luck for the big change in life and may you reach your new home safely and without any damage to your inventory.

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As you will know by now, Belle and I love a mini break. Whether it’s a wet and windy December weekend in a vintage VW camper van on the Cornish coast* or a luxury boutique hotel in the Cotswolds, the theme is normally the same – some nice food, outings in the day that I generally enjoy more than Belle, and then snuggly evenings with a film or a murder mystery.

It’s not a bad format really, especially the outings, where I normally get to sneak in something like a model village or obscure wool museum. I imagine some parents of teenagers don’t manage to have quite as relaxed breaks as we do.

Our recent weekend away at Haven’s Littlesea Holiday Park on the Dorset coast did not disappoint. In fact, our caravan, if you can even call it that, was one of the nicest I’ve ever stayed in, and I have stayed in a LOT of caravans. I actually went as far as to double check the booking to see if it was actually a lodge, but no, definitely a caravan. It was a platinum caravan with a sea view, which is top of the range, but even so, very impressive.

The living and dining area was incredibly spacious, and had a proper three piece suite and dining table and chairs rather than the usual bench seating you get in a caravan. The kitchen was well equipped with a full-sized oven and fridge freezer, microwave, dishwasher and even a washing machine, which I’m not sure I’ve seen in a caravan before. I would have liked a cafetiere, but you can’t have anything I suppose.

Haven Littlesea View Post

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untold stories slummy single mummy

Divorce is down as one of the most stressful life events you can experience, but today’s contributor wants to reassure people that although it can be a heartbreaking and traumatic event, there are positives in divorce, and you will find happiness again. If you’ve been through a divorce I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

…..

“Getting divorced is absolute agony,” I was once advised by a friend, (who had the audacity to be in the middle of divorcing an actual vicar), “but the alternative is far worse. It’s like living with an gangrenous leg that you know you have to have chopped off: sometimes it feels that it might be easier to die slowly from the inevitable poisoning, but the brave accept that it needs hacking off so you can thrive again.”

Two decades later, I often thought of her advice when I was in the middle of my own, painful hacking off. The first nights when my children were at their father’s house I would have to close their bedroom doors because their flat, empty beds hurt so much. I shut the doors, boxing in that part of my life so I didn’t have to feel their absence. I felt full of doom when I told some of my older friends that my husband and I were separating, and they looked grave and said things like: “But what about your lovely children?” I felt that I was doing something awful, something unforgivable, hurling us all into a dark future.

Since then I’ve seen friends go through the same process. It’s so painful watching them go through their own personal severing, knowing I can’t do much to help other than to listen, to not judge, and to buy wine, fairy lights and other pretty things to adorn their new, fierce tiger-mother lairs.

But it’s not all agony. After everything is put asunder, there are some truly great up-sides to getting divorced: View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Competition Finder

Every so often I take a good look at Instagram and think to myself ‘what is it that I really want to see?’ We can all be guilty of that mindless scrolling, but if we’re going to get hypnotised it might as well be by pictures that fill us with joy right? For me that means colour, pattern, beautiful interiors and houseplants.

I bloody love houseplants. They’re one of the things that I think really makes a house a home, along with pictures and cats, obviously. I love looking at other people’s pictures of houseplants, and even better if they also have cats in them.

If you’re a plant lover and want to fill your Instagram feed with beautiful houseplant accounts then you’ve come to the right place. I’ve picked out seven of my favourite Instagram accounts for houseplant lovers, to help bring some green to your ‘gram.

To celebrate all things botanical, I’ve also teamed up with Competition Finder to bring you the chance to win £50 to spend on houseplants of your very own! Competition Finder is a brilliant one stop shop to help you find all of the latest competitions and giveaways, so if my competition gives you a taste for comping, do go and check out Competition Finder.

In my giveaway, one lucky winner will win £50 to spend on their favourite houseplants from Patch Plants. How cool would that be? New plant babies! As a nation, the recent enforced time at home has only fuelled our love of houseplants – Patch Plants has seen a massive 500% increase in sales over the period of lockdown, especially amongst plants popular on Instagram. ‘Rapunzel, the golden pothos continues to be our most popular houseplant,’ Patch Plants told me, ‘with 31,000 sold so far this year. Susie the Sansevieria and Big Ken the Kentia Palm also feature regularly in our top ten. Our Instagram following tend to opt for more exotic plants like Ray.’

So there you go houseplant fact fans.

For a chance to win £50 to spend on houseplants, you’ll need to read on to the end of the post. First up though, seven Instagram accounts for plant lovers… View Post

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Are you struggling with hair loss? Well, you are not alone. Hair loss is extremely common now. Hair loss becomes even more frequent as we enter in our 40s. Besides hormonal changes, stress, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, there are hundreds of contributors that pave the way to hair loss.

Hair loss can be very disturbing as it tempers one’s confidence. Moreover, hair loss may be an indicator of your declining health so it can cause further stress in the victim. Keeping in view the social pressure people struggling with hair loss try to indulge themselves in several hair regrowth remedies. In addition to that the before and after photos circulating on the internet, distributed in the form of brochures and pasted against every wall of the local market are quite convincing. The technology involved in hair growth treatment has quite been improved over the years. But the problem is that these treatments are too expensive and everyone can’t afford them.

Oils for Hair Growth and Replacement

You must have heard about hair oils. They are the best available option for hair growth. Many people doubt if they really do work against hair loss, so here we confirm that they do work!

The best thing about hair oils is that they are cheap and easily available. Some of the hair oils that you need to consider are given below;

  1. Thyme essential oil

Thyme essential oil is effective hair growth oil. It is highly recommended to those who are looking forward to hair thickness and growth. It has a remarkable ability to improve cellular generation.

Thyme essential oil promotes hair growth. It stimulates the scalp and effectively protects it against hair loss. Moreover, you can also use Thyme oil for treating alopecia areata. It is a strong oil and its small quantity can do wonders.

You can add two tablespoons of Thyme oil in your basic oil and then apply it on your scalp. Leave it for 5 to 8 minutes and then wash your hair.

  1. Rosemary Essential Oil

If you want to improve both hair thickness and hair growth, rosemary oil is a great choice thanks to its ability to improve cellular generation.

You can mix a few drops of rosemary oil with olive oil, coconut oil or your basic oil and then apply it. Leave the oil in your hair for 10 to 15 minutes. Wash your hair with shampoo to get rid of oil completely.  You can do this therapy twice a week.

 

  1. CBD Oil

Your dream of enjoying the thick and long hair can be turned into reality by CBD.  This oil is full of omega fatty acids. These fatty acids help in sealing the moisture in the hair. You can massage your scalp with CBD oil to get rid of dryness and dandruff as well.

Moreover, this oil promotes blood circulation significantly. When the blood circulation improves in the areas near to hair follicles, the hair growth is also improved.

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It was probably easier to shop for your children when they were, well, children.

Your 6-year-old daughter loved that huge box of pens and paper you gave her, and your 9-year-old son was thrilled with his gift of a new soccer ball.

Now they are full-grown adults with families of their own. You still enjoy giving your grown kids gifts, but it’s a bit more challenging to come up with things they may want or need.

With this in mind, let’s look at gifts senior parents should consider giving to their adult children—some are practical and some are more of a splurge, but all of them are sure to be appreciated:

1. Family Photos

Chances are good you have piles of family photos sitting in boxes or in albums. Unlike the younger generation, who keeps most of their photos on their phones, you have actual tangible pictures that you can hold in your hand. For a nice keepsake for your adult kids, take some time to organize these pictures and place them in albums, with each photo well-labeled. That way, your kids won’t have to wonder “Is that Great Aunt Bernice or Great Aunt Sally and who is she standing with?”

Use a stable, archival pen like the Pigma Pen to write on the backs of any photos—jot down names and other info on the edges so if the ink does bleed through at all, it won’t mar the photo. You can also use a #2B pencil—or better yet, write down who is who on the album page next to each picture. To make sure each adult child gets the same albums, use a service like FrameBridge to have copies made of each picture and mix and match the originals and copies throughout the albums.

2. Peace of Mind

It is natural for older adults to think about how their eventual passing might impact their children’s finances. To help alleviate any concerns you might have, as well as gift your adult children with peace of mind, consider taking out a life insurance policy from a company like USAA. This way, you will know that your kids will be taken care of financially and will not have to pay for any funeral expenses, medical bills or other estate-related costs when the time comes.

3. A Memory Instead of a Material Item

If your adult kids have pretty much everything they need, consider treating them to a memory of some sort. For instance, if your son still loves soccer and there is a professional team in or near his hometown, check out StubHub.com and get him and his family tickets to an upcoming game. If your daughter is still crazy for artwork, spring for tickets to the latest art exhibit at her local museum, and throw in a gift card to a nice restaurant so she can make a day of it.

4. Pay a Bill or Buy a Service

Depending on your finances and your adult kids’ situations, you could cover a car payment or two, pay for a professional housekeeping service to clean their home top to bottom, or offer to cover their cable bill for a few months. For busy adult kids who are struggling to make ends meet and/or are swamped with work and their own children and other responsibilities, this can be a huge relief.

Gift Giving Has Changed, But it Can Still Be Meaningful and Fun

As you can see, you don’t have to spend your hard-earned money on more “stuff” to fill your children’s homes. Family history-related items, memory-making activities and peace of mind are all meaningful gifts your adult children will truly appreciate.

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Ruitertassen traveler cabin bag review

While the tourism industry may have taken a hit during COVID-19, there’s sometimes no avoiding travel for work or family.

While this is in no way a full featured list, we’ve included the first 5 items that should find their way into your backpack when travelling during 2020.

 

  • Face Masks or Bandanas

 

It’s certainly a sign of the times when a face mask is top of our 5 things to pack in your travel backpack, but it is what it is.  

In the midst of a global pandemic, having an assortment of useful and stylish bandanas to choose from is imperative.

Not only do face masks and bandanas look great, they help keep both you and the people around you safe.

PRO TIP: 

When you’re travelling, remember that you’re nothing more than a guest.  Don’t be that obnoxious traveller who thinks they’re above the locals and puts their health at risk.

 

  • Clothes with more socks and underwear than you need

 

While packing clothes are a given, we recommend always packing more pairs of socks and underwear than you think you need.  Trust us, you can never have too many pairs of either!

As a rule, you should pack enough underwear and shirts to wear daily, enough pants to wear every second day and a single jacket depending on climate.

Bring warm clothes to sleep in or at least layer.  Keep in mind, it’s easier to put light jumpers you’d wear during the day on when you go to bed.

PRO TIP: 

Some hotels offer washing facilities that you can use while traveling, so take advantage and halve your packing if you can.

 

  •  Footwear matched to your plans

 

Footwear is an often overlooked category that should be planned carefully.  

Always pack your most comfortable walking shoes or joggers.  Never underestimate the amount of walking required when you’re travelling.

Alongside your joggers, pack a single pair of dress shoes that will match your outfit, a pair of flip-flops or sandals and finally shoes for any special activities you may be doing, such as hiking.

PRO TIP: 

Wear your bulkiest pair of shoes on travel days.  This will save luggage space and money on flights with carry-on weight limits.

 

  • A Collapsible Water Bottle

 

Any traveller has faced the dilemma of how to pack a water bottle at one time or another.

They’re often big, heavy and in shapes that waste precious space in backpack pockets that you really would rather be using for something else.

This is where collapsible water bottles come in handy.  They simply fold (or kind of roll up), allowing you to pack a water bottle and not worry about wasted space when you underfill.

PRO TIP: 

It’s the water inside your bottle that’s heavy, not the bottle itself.  Remember, you can always half fill a large water bottle, but you can’t overfill a small bottle if you ever need to.

 

  •  Entertainment devices you can double up

 

One often overlooked travel-hack, is to take electronic devices that double up. 

For example, your smartphone can double up as a kindle with the right app, or your laptop can double as both a tv screen and journal.

Also, try to download eBook versions of the book you’re reading to save space.  While most of us would still prefer a physical book, if there was a time for an eBook then it’s when travelling.

PRO TIP: 

If you prefer the feeling you get when reading physical books, consider taking copies that you won’t mind leaving behind or passing onto someone else.

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Advertisement feature in association with ARK Skincare

I feel like the world is divided into two different types of people.

The first type – me – buys whatever shampoo is on special offer, slaps on a bit of moisturiser as a ‘skincare routine’ and considers scrapping a bit of dead skin off her feet with her fingernails in the bath a pedicure.

(Sorry.)

And then there’s the second type, (the non-grotty type), who actually takes a bit of care of themselves. The type of person, like Belle, who puts thought into what they put on their skin and loves nothing more than spending an evening giving me a top notch makeover.

ARK night cream

ARK Skincare

IMAGINE MY SURPRISE then, when a year or so ago I discovered a skincare range that I loved so much that I went out of my way to get more of it, even if it wasn’t on a half price offer.

I know! Me! The ‘feet in the bath’ woman!

This amazing ‘skincare range that makes me care about my skin’ is ARK, a vegan-friendly, cruelty free range especially developed to support skin at different stages of its life, with individual ranges for teens and 20s, 30s and 40s and 50+ skin. You can also shop by skin concern if you prefer, so if you struggle particularly with redness, sensitivity, oiliness, or anything like that, there’s a product for you. View Post

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