When you think of the beauty brand Dove, what does it mean to you?

If the answer is ‘nothing at all’, this post is probably not going to fascinate you to be honest. You might have more of a laugh reading this one about me getting a smear test instead. If you’re intrigued though, read on.

Dove are currently running an exhibition, exclusively for Dove facebook fans, to encourage women to showcase what the beauty brand means to them.  All you have to do is come up with a creative design that incorporates the iconic bird image and that has emotional resonance for you – from a place that inspires you, to a person who makes you feel beautiful.

"Dove bird logo"

The Dove Bird in full flight

I do use Dove products, and have ever since I was a teenager. When I think of Dove I think of something very simple and pure, and I guess it’s this purity that Dove are trying to capture. Dove’s message after all is that beauty isn’t about complicated beauty regimes and treatments, or difficult diets and layers of make-up, beauty is really about something simple – you.

Here’s a little video that tells you a bit more about the exhibition:


The personalised designs can be a photograph, drawing or graphic incorporating the Dove bird – the more creative the better.  Once digitally submitted, the designs will be showcased for fans to enjoy and ‘like’, with the most likes of each week being celebrated on the Facebook wall. The first 100 entries will receive a unique set of 10 printed postcards featuring their bespoke design to share with friends, so why not visit the Dove facebook page now and get creative?

“The Dove By You Exhibition is a chance for our loyal fans to celebrate their creativity with one another.  Real Women have always been at the heart of everything we do, and this new Facebook activity gives them a platform to show just what Dove means to them.” says Ali Fisher, Dove Marketing Manager. “For many of us, the Dove bird has been a symbol in our lives for as long as we can remember. It’s a symbol synonymous with what Dove cherishes most, the celebration of Real Women and Real Beauty.”


“I don’t believe in God, but I miss him….” wrote Julian Barnes in his book ‘Nothing to be frightened of’.

I heard this quote on the radio this afternoon and it really struck a chord with me. People talk about the ‘God shaped hole’, but this sentence to me perfectly summed up the whole idea. I don’t believe in God, but I still feel the hole sometimes.

In ‘Aubade’ by Philip Larkin, he talks about his terror of death, and the fear of ‘nothingness’:

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.

Pretty bleak isn’t it? But then he was apparently terrified of dying, of ceasing to exist. Later in the poem he says:

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast, moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear – no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

It’s that one line that gets me – ‘created to pretend we never die’ – because ultimately isn’t that what religion is? I would quite like to believe that I am never going to really die, however much of a pretence that might be.

I don’t believe in God, yet sometimes I feel the absence of what to me God represents – a faith in something bigger than me, a sense of purpose, a set of ‘rules’ and beliefs to guide me and to inform the decisions I make. Most of all I suppose God, and religion generally, offer reassurance, a comfort that this isn’t it.

I miss having that solid faith in something more. No one wants to believe do they that this is all there is?


Would you like to make money from your blog? Perhaps you harbour dreams of making the move from amateur blogger to professional writer or journalist?

A while ago I reviewed the expert telephone service from Greatvine, and found it really interesting, so I very happily agreed when they offered me the chance to review their new email expert service.

Because the question and answer are exchanged via email, I thought it would be great to ask a question that you all might be interested in, and to then reproduce the answer in full, so that you can get an idea of exactly what you get for your money.

My expert was Joycellyn Akuffo, a journalist and online business coach, and founder and editor of Mothers Who Work. I asked Joycellyn this:

"Make money from blogging"

Grab that cash

What advice do you have for ‘mummybloggers’ who want to turn their hobby into a job? How can someone go from being a blogger to a paid writer, earning a living while at the same time working flexibly around their family?

The answer came back to me in less than 24 hours, even though it was a weekend, and Joycellyn’s answer was very thorough. I would have perhaps liked to have seen some further sources of information included – it was an email, so it would have been easy to include hyperlinks – but then to be fair my question was fairly broad. I guess too that the experts want to leave scope for further questions!

Here is what Joycellyn said, so you can decide for yourself. Do let me know if you find it useful.

Writing and blogging – these days you could be forgiven for thinking that they are all the same. Some bloggers really know their stuff and they have a natural knack of getting the point across to thous ands of people every day or month.

But the two specialties differ, and with it does the training involved or required, and the income can vary too.

Making money from a blog

Let’s start with blogging. First of all a blog can be run by someone who isn’t a writer – most of them are owned by non-professional writers. Some are run by professional writers, journalists and editors.

There are a number of ways to make money from a blog, but they all require one basic thing – traffic and lots of it. So here goes:

1. Search Engine Advertising – this can be using the age-old Google Adsense ads. You would have seen text ads on some blogs, with Google Ads written on them, and sometimes banner ads, again with the Google branding on them. These won’t make you rich, but  if your blog gets lots of traffic, you could probably pay for your hosting or a handbag and shoes three or four times a year. How much you make will depend on the top ic of your blog (these ads are keyword based), and the cost that advertisers are prepared to pay for each click in the sector. Some keywords cost as little as a penny, others cost a couple to a few pounds.

Other search engines like Yahoo and Bing also have their own advertising programmes that basically do the same as Google Adsense.

2. Affiliate Marketing – this is when you promote other people’s products and services on your blog. You can sign up to affiliate platforms like Tradedoubler.com, Affiliatewindow.com and Clickbank.com and start adding links and banners from well-known brands to your website.

These can bring in commission as little as 5% per sale to around 20% per sale. Some schemes (though few and far between these days) will pay per click like Google Adsense, but they are mainly cat per action (this can be per sign-up for surveys, for example, or a purchase).

Many people like promoting relevant products on Amazon th rough their affiliate programme, but like all of these schemes, it won’t make you a millionaire.

3. Direct Advertising – this is when you deal with a brand or company directly. Either you call and speak with their marketing department or they contact you. This form of advertising could be a sponsored post, where they supply you with an article (or you can charge a little extra to write a post yourself).

A lot of advertising agencies do this and will contact blogs offering a pittance to put a post up to see if the blogger will either be too inexperienced to know they are being ripped off, or are too desperate to tell them where to go!

Sponsored ads can bring in from say £50-£500 per post, and will depend on not only your website’s traffic, but also your page rank.

If you’re interested in this form of making money, you should really create a media pack. This is usually a PDF which you can send out to advertisers when they request it (or when you’re trying to get advertising off your own back), and will contain details about your blog’s traffic stats, the type of people who visit your website, a rate card (cost of advertising) and contact details.

4. Selling Products/Services – if you can sell products or a service (like webinars, membership or other service), you can start to make ‘proper’ money. You will basically be providing something that your website visitors need and want and keep them coming back for more. It doesn’t have to be lots of products or services – sometimes just one or a handful will do the trick.

To move from being a mummyblogger to a money-making mummyblogger, you could use a mix of the above, or option 4. With a product that people want and need, and with enough promotion, your blog could become a business run by you, in your own time, generating the income that you need to sustain the right work-life balance that your family needs.


Without teaching a chicken to suck eggs, a writer is usually a person who writes books, or may come from say a medical background and is seen as an expert, so starts writing a column or a regular feature for a publication or website. Journalists are sometimes (incorrectly) lumped into the same group – especially freelance journalists, but clearly they come from a media background and have had the training and experience looking for a story and crafting it etc.

Writers of books and novels may not necessarily be trained. Some may have taken a creative writing course, if their interest is in books.

Journalists, like I said earlier are trained. They would usually have done a media writing course, a media law course and have worked on various publications – some have a specialty and some don’t…a journalist is trained to be able to write about any subject, you see.

If you are a blogger who is an expert, you could make money spiriting books. These days, you don’t need a great big publisher to succeed – thanks to Kindle and just having the ability to sell your own ebooks from any website. How much you make really depends on how much interest or need there is for your subject area, and how much promotion you can do. A lot of these types of writers often get a break with one good media push and then they get in a bestseller’s list and start raking in the cash!

Journalists usually pitch an idea to an editor. This is a small proposal of a few paragraphs which details what the article is going to be about, plus an idea of case studies/expert quotes etc.

What they are paid will vary – smaller publications can pay as little as £250 for a 1,000-word article…maybe less if the journalist has less experience. Larger publications like the nationals can pay up to and in excess of £1,000 for an investigative piece or a good celebrity interview. Again, it depends on the experience of the journalist and the editor’s budget.


Today I have a recipe for you, a recipe for the ultimate cheesecake.

We were out for lunch at a lovely restaurant today called At The Chapel in Bruton, to celebrate my sister’s birthday, when I came across said cheesecake recipe. While we were finishing our lunch, the venue was being prepared for a wedding party, and the wedding cake, made of cheese, was taking pride of place on the bar.

"cheesecake recipe"

Please pass the crackers

To make this beautiful cheesecake for yourself, follow my simple cheesecake recipe:

  1. Place one massive cheese on a large wooden board.
  2. Place a slightly less massive cheese on top.
  3. Then add another large, but more manageable cheese.
  4. Finally, finish the tower with an ordinary sized cheese.



What do you reckon? Is the power of suggestion enough to rid you of food cravings and help you lose weight?

Apparently so…

For a few weeks now I’ve been trying out a new weight loss technique from Thinking Slimmer. The theory is that it’s not a diet at all, rather a shift in the way you think about food, which means you will lose weight without the need for willpower. This is a good job, because I don’t have any.

Every night for at least 21 days to start with, you have to listen to a recording – your ‘Slimpod’ – and over time you form new habits and new ways of thinking. According to the website, the Slimpod will “gently change your relationship to food and exercise by retuning the way your mind works, so you never diet again. There’s no calorie counting, no horrible tasting food replacements, no hunger pangs, no anguish, no guilt and no pain.”

There is the added bonus too that the man on the recording sounds a lot like Jude Law, and having Jude Law whisper how confident and lovely you are in your ear as you lie in bed every night is rather nice.

Sounds all too good to be true doesn’t it?

Well, I’ve listened to mine now for the initial 21 days and I must say I really have noticed differences in the way I think about food. Normally I think about food a lot, and I mean a lot, but it was less than a week into the trial before I began to find my thoughts less consumed with food than they normally are. It wasn’t a dramatic shift, just a gradual realisation that I was going for longer without thinking about snacking. When it does come to eating I seem to have a much more ‘take it or leave it’ approach, which makes it much easier to make the right choices.

Can you think yourself thin?

No thank you.

Saying no to puddings doesn’t feel like I’m depriving myself anymore, it feels like a positive choice, and this is a massive difference for me. I haven’t lost any weight yet (although I haven’t gained any either), but apparently this is OK, as it’s a long-term lifestyle change. I will keep listening, and let you know when the weight does start to shift.

Alongside my Slimpod, I’ve been listening to a Fitpod, designed to make you feel more inclined to exercise. To motivate me even further, I was given some fancy sportswear by Debenhams. My not very encouraging family took some pictures of me in it.

“Not like that,” said Boyfriend, “you look ridiculous. Just stand still! What’s wrong with your face?” Talk about pressure.

“Try and look sporty?” suggested Bee. So I did.

"Debenhams sports wear"

Me looking sporty

“Oh dear,” said Bee, “not like that. Try something else.”

“How about a bit of casual stretching?” I said.

"Debenhams sportswear"

Casual stretching

“Well, it’s better than the sporty look,” she admitted, “but still weird.”

We gave up in the end, and I went off to my netball match. My new sports gear does make me feel more professional on court than when I used to go in a pair of old pyjama bottoms and a Johnny Cash t-shirt, but to be honest I haven’t noticed the effects of the Fitpod as much as the Slimpod, and would still rather have a little sit down 95% of the time if given the choice.

I did wonder if it’s because the Slimpod comes first on my playlist, and I’m always snoozing by the second track, but I’ve been reassured it shouldn’t matter if I fall asleep.

Perhaps my laziness is just more deeply ingrained than my greed.



“Please can I have my study back?” I ask Belle, picking my way through the teddies lined up on the floor, notebooks at their feet, where a game of ‘schools’ was abandoned some days ago.

“Argh!” she replies. (It’s more of a snort and groan in one, but it’s hard to put into a word.) “But then I’ll have to carry all the teddies downstairs, and then come back up and carry the notebooks down, and then come up again and take down their school tables!”

“Um… yes,” I agree, “that is rather the point.”

Five minutes later though and we were regretting our insistence that Belle took everything down herself. The red leather ex-nightclub cube seats she had been using as desks left a selection of interesting red stains on the walls as she manoeuvred them down the stairs. A more cynical mother might wonder if she did it on purpose, like when men deliberately make a hash out of the chores they don’t want to be asked to do again.*

Normally I’m not really the type to care much about stains – I’m much more of a ‘rub it quickly into the carpet with my foot’ kind of person – but since we moved to Bristol, and had to put down a mahoosive deposit on our rented house, suddenly stains seem a lot more important. I can’t think why.

Recently we came back from a night away, to a selection of mysterious stains. It turned out that Bee had ‘had a few friends over’ while we were gone. Coffee stains on the table were easy to identify, and the smell of beer from the carpet gave us a clue there, but the waist height purple lines all around the dining room walls had us baffled for ages.

coffee rings

Coffee anyone?

We were sure they weren’t there before, but we just couldn’t think where they could have come from. And then I spotted my purple hula hoop in the corner of the room…

Funnily enough, the supermarket doesn’t stock anything designed to get hula hoop marks off walls, so if you have any stain removal tips please do let me know.

*Pure sexist slander.


Have you noticed how everywhere you go now they want to dust your drink with chocolate powder or make some elaborate pattern out of milk froth?

I have to admit that although I know the coffee shop people do it for everyone, and probably loathe the very sight of a coffee bean shaped stencil by the end of the day, it still makes me feel special. I genuinely think I enjoy my drink more when it looks pretty. Simple things etc etc.

Quite often I like to take pictures of my beautiful beverages, in a bid to capture their beauty for ever, and also to make me stop for a minute, reflect on the simple pleasure of a nicely shaped cup, and get a bit of perspective on my day.

Here then, for your amusement, is a little gallery of the delightful drinks I have enjoyed recently.


"hot chocolate"

I heart hot chocolate

"pretty coffee"

I want the moon on a stick. Or on a coffee at least.

"cup of tea"

The cutest milk jug you ever did see

"mint hot chocolate"

Marvelous mint hot chocolate


I’ve been feeling bad over the weekend for being such a party pooper, complaining about burger buns and putting a dampener on the whole evening Pimms vibe, so today I thought I’d balance it out a bit.

I’m not really a grumpy old woman you see. Yes I feel silly buying brollies in the rain, but there are plenty of other special occasions and clichéd activities that I positively relish.


Christmas really is the ultimate in ‘things we are forced to celebrate’, and yet I love it. I love everything about it. I love buying presents, I love choosing wrapping paper, I love the smell of mulled wine and mince pies, and watching the girls open their stocking on Christmas morning. I start getting excited about Christmas around September, and am almost beside myself by the time the lights come on and strains of Slade start flowing from open shop doors.


Another total cliché, but I have yet to meet a woman who doesn’t like getting flowers. Whether it be an enormous bouquet delivered to your door or a handful of daisies picked from a neighbour’s garden on the way home, there is just something special about being sent flowers. To me, being given flowers tells me that somebody is thinking about me, and that I’m worth the effort of stopping off at the garage, and that’s surely the stuff of fairy tales? And a note to all the men out there, don’t worry if you’re not near a garage forecourt – you can get UK flower delivery online from one of dozens of local florists from Interflora. There is no excuse I’m afraid.


‘Oh, don’t worry about getting me a present, it’s just another day really…’

This is something I will never say. I love birthdays, and expect to receive a lovely array of thoughtful gifts and cards. For the last few years I’ve celebrated with a party, which is even better, as all your guests feel obliged to bring presents and pay you lots of attention. Yes, the money you spend on juke box hire may be more than the value of all your pressies combined, but that’s hardly the point, and everyone wants a juke box in their kitchen right?

The Olympics

You’d think that of all the bandwagons, this would be one of the ones I’d be least likely to jump on, yet there we were, waving our over-priced flags and drinking our free cokes. Seriously, who gives their kids coke for breakfast? Me it seems!

"Olympic torch"

Waiting for the Olympic torch. And the sugar rush.

Do you have any celebrations or traditions that you like to throw yourself into? Any special occasions you enjoy regardless of the fact that they are probably owned by Hallmark? Do let me know…


The last few times I’ve done a Week in Tweets post I’ve been a little lazy.

Maybe lazy isn’t quite the right word, as actually what I’ve done has been more work. Sneaky perhaps. I’ve tweeted as Bee and Belle, tweeted as Nancy Drew, Girl Detective, and in the weeks I’ve been me, I’ve written retrospective tweets. All of this is perfectly within the rules, (as made up by me), but I can’t help but feel it’s all been an elaborate avoidance tactic.

You know why?

Because I am boring on twitter.

Don’t tell anyone, but my tweets are actually fairly dull and sporadic, and I’m beginning to wonder if this whole meme isn’t just a ploy to convince everyone otherwise. So this week, I’m going to pick some actual tweets, so you can see for yourself how dull I am. I will totally understand if you want to unfollow me immediately.

"Rubber duck"

Quack quack

Saturday – Love the new polka dot anti-mould rubber ducks from @cuddledry at @TheBabyShow

Sunday – Casually roasting a chicken.

Monday – How many meals do you make at tea time? wp.me/pJA3j-JS

Tuesday – @liveotherwise Oooh, are you doing @ThinkingSlimmer ? The voice man sounds to me like Jude Law – it is quite seductive!

Wednesday – @GappyTales you could break up an old cheap necklace and use the beads as jewels?

Thursday – Belle is loving the @AngelBerryMe experience. Think she has a bit of everything…

Friday – @TheLadyMagazine My mum was a Tupperware Lady when I was little, and she still has a lot of her ‘kit’, so it must last!

You see??!!

Oh yes, Tupperware is so durable! How fascinating! The Lady Magazine didn’t reply to that one. What a surprise.

I would really love for you to share your week in tweets, tedious or otherwise, if only to make me feel better. Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list. I promise I will read them all and give you a shout out on twitter. I clearly have nothing else to say.


I have a bit of a weird confession.

Yesterday we had a barbecue. (That’s not the confession. That’s not at all weird).

I nearly didn’t though, because I didn’t want to go and buy burgers and buns.

I don’t know why, but I have a bit of an issue with doing stuff that lots of other people are doing. I just don’t like it. It’s hard to understand why, as I don’t judge other people for buying burger buns just because it’s sunny. I’m not secretly standing behind you at the checkout, mocking you inside my head for taking advantage of the nice weather, so why do I judge myself?

I think it’s because it makes me feel a bit stupid and gullible, as though someone is watching and going ‘haha! You fell for it!’. Or it might be a form of stubbornness, where I don’t want to do it just because I probably should.

Perhaps I have some issues.


Om nom nom

It’s not just burger buns either, there are plenty of other similar things I don’t like to do:

  • I don’t like to eat out on occasions like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.
  • I actually don’t like Valentine’s Day full stop, and especially don’t like buying things in the shape of hearts, or pink chocolates.
  • I don’t like buying suntan lotion in the summer.
  • I don’t like buying an umbrella if it’s raining, or worst still, looking like it might rain soon.
  • I don’t like buying insurance for things unless it’s a legal requirement.

Is this normal?

I’ve always just assumed it was, but lately, seeing so many people casually buying burger buns without any sense of shame, I’m beginning to suspect it’s just me…

Photo credit – chotda


When Bee was about 12 years old*, she did a very brave thing. She went off all by herself to one of Do It 4 Real’s UK summer camps. As we dropped her off at the bus, which would take her miles and miles away, (somewhere Up North), I couldn’t help but admire her – she knew no one at all, and yet she very quickly made friends, some of whom, thanks to facebook, she is still in touch with now.

Personally I had mixed feelings about summer camps as a child. The idea of them was always much more exciting than the reality. I’d get totally hyped up in the weeks beforehand, imagining Famous Five type adventures, so that the reality of communal sleeping with strangers, without even a deserted island to explore, was always a disappointment.

Another con is the cost of a summer camp. Unfortunately, they can be expensive, and if your child doesn’t like it due to homesickness for example, then it will be very disappointing for the both of you. There is a positive point to this con, however. Many camps have caught on to the importance of being more frugal in the current economic climate and are therefore offering financial solutions like paying the fee over several months, so that it’s not such a shock to your bank account. When Bee went on her camp, we got a really good discount too for being on a low income, so it’s always worth checking to see if they have concessionary prices.

Home-sickness, shared rooms, parting with wads of cash… Am I selling it to you yet?

"Archery for kids"

Image – Do It 4 Real

Let’s look at the pros.

Firstly, you get rid of your child for a whole week! Brilliant! What will you do with yourself? Have a little sit down probably and catch up on the housework, but still, you can do it in glorious peace!

The real beauty though of summer camps is that it gives your child the opportunity to try out activities you simply can’t provide at home. Bee’s camp had a theatrical theme and try as I might, I can’t provide a cast of actors and singers at home in the back garden. If your child likes the idea of learning archery, climbing, or kayaking, or is desperate to ride a quad bike and play paint balling, then a summer camps could be a great choice.

This counts double if after one week of the summer holidays, your kids are complaining about being bored. One fun packed week will not only be a great experience but give them inspiration for new hobbies during term time, too. There’s nothing stopping them from pursuing their new found interests, and maybe even discovering a passion that lasts a lifetime or which could even turn into a career path.

So, will you be packing your kids of this summer for a week full of muddy fun? Let me know…

*Actually I checked with her after I wrote this and she reckons she was only nine! Amazing…


Today I wasted ninety whole minutes of my life. Ninety minutes that I will never, ever be able to get back.

Today Belle and I went to watch Top Cat The Movie.

Now I didn’t have high expectations – I’m used to watching crappy kids’ films and I’d seen the trailer, so I knew it wasn’t going to be exactly high brow:

The trailer however did not do justice to the full Top Cat horror that awaited us.

I’m not a big fan of 3D films at the best of times, mainly because I have to wear the 3D glasses over the top of my ordinary glasses, and I look kind of stupid, but also I just don’t see the point with something like Top Cat. There was nothing in the film that benefited from 3D, it just feels like jumping on the 3D bandwagon.

Even a bandwagon can be bearable though, so long as you spend more than about 49p on the 3D effects. I suspect that this was roughly the budget for Top Cat.

The 3D was such poor quality that often there were just random objects in 3D, standing out as though in mid-air – a bowl of snacks on a side table for instance, where the bowl appeared to hover about a metre away from the table top for no reason. At other times, the cats and the background couldn’t decide which was meant to be at the front, and it all became rather confusing.

It was a little bit like watching a 3D film but without the glasses on – nothing looked quite right.

And the plot?


I can’t say it exactly gripped me. In fact I tried my best to think of anything at all I could do to not have to watch Top Cat and the gang’s crazy antics. I gave myself a hand massage – that passed a nice few minutes. Then I was stuck. If we’d not been in a corner I might have slipped out to the ‘toilet’ and just hung about in the lobby for ten minutes. That would have been infinitely preferable.

I really can’t say anymore. I just want to put the whole thing behind me and move on.