Okay, I know I normally do short rants, but there is just so much to say on the subject of flexible working isn’t there? Plus I want to talk to you about the Hire Me My Way campaign for more part-time and flexible jobs, and I have a personal story from another blogger to share, so all in all it’s a pretty jam-packed post.

You lucky things!

When you stop to think about ‘work’ as a concept, it’s crazy really. Let’s take your basic office job. A 9am start maybe? An hour for lunch, and then home in time for Pointless and some fish fingers and chips. For starters, the whole idea of everyone going to work and going home at the same time is madness. It’s not wonder we have traffic problems is it?! I mean, who came up with that?! ‘Oh yeah, I know, it would be GREAT if we had everyone try to travel to and from work at the same time everyday! Wouldn’t that be AWESOME?’

No, it’s not awesome.

And then you’ve got the whole productivity issue. All of the research, like this, says that flexible working increases productivity, that when we trust our staff to work from home, or to work compressed hours, or whatever it might be, that we get more out of them. So why are so many employers still so scared to embrace flexible working?

Do they not trust us? Do they imagine that the minute they’re not looking, everyone will just be at home playing on Facebook? Because I hate to break it to you bosses, but there are plenty of people sat at their desks right now sneaking a look at Facebook – keeping them locked in an office for set hours every day isn’t going to solve that.

flexible working campaign hire me my way View Post

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I like gin as much as the next self-employed mother of two. It’s ace. Some ice, a good splash of decent tonic water. Boom. Job done. Some gins might taste a little nicer than others; personally I find it hard to tell the difference unless it’s Asda basics or something like that. Gin is gin. 

I was having a browse through a Christmas gift guide in a newspaper at the weekend though, and saw at advert for Silent Pool gin. I’ve never had it before and I’m sure it’s very delicious, so apologies to Silent Pool as this is nothing personal.

BUT.

There was something on the bottle that really wound me up. This gin is not just any old gin you see, this gin is ‘intricately realised’ and distilled from grain ‘precisely crafted’ in England.

Ooooh!

silent pool gin

Jesus Christ.

Intricately realised?? What does that mean? It was complicated to make?! You took a bit of care over your ingredients? Good! I didn’t expect gin would be easy to knock together, or we’d all be making our own wouldn’t we?!

It seems there is a trend that has developed over the last year or two for all of the best things to be hand crafted, by authentic, artisan makers, who live just to make the very best whatever it is that they can possibly make. At the weekends they retreat to the woods to carve spoons and nibble their hand crafted, organic quinoa biscuits because they are just so bloody precious they can’t just eat a Jaffa cake and watch TV like a normal person. View Post

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what is hygge?

Today when I got home it was cold and rainy. I went inside, (after tweeting a picture of the scary mushrooms growing outside my house), and put the heating on.

I went upstairs and put on an extra jumper and my slippers. Cosy.

I came back down and popped the kettle on. While it boiled, I lit a couple of candles. Then I made myself a cup of tea. I took it over to the sofa, my hands wrapped around it for warmth, and pulled a blanket over my knees while the room warmed up.

I did these things because I am a NORMAL HUMAN BEING WHO KNOWS HOW TO LIVE NORMALLY. View Post

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It’s half term this week, so when Belle was up and dressed – around 3pm – she walked into town to meet me at my office and we went for a mooch around the shops. First on her list was Boots to look at the make up. Specifically the pigments. 

(Don’t even get me started on pigments. Belle goes on about them all the time and I don’t even know what it means.)

My eye was caught by a display of products to help the discerning girl about town with her ‘contouring’. In case you don’t know, contouring is essentially painting your face strategically to try to change its shape e.g. giving yourself fake cheekbones. As far as I can gather it’s basically make up to try to make you look thinner.

I have two issues with contouring.

Firstly, who is it, telling our beautiful young daughters that they need to spend money on brown creams and powders to paint fake shadows on their faces?! What’s wrong with women’s faces as they are? I mean seriously, WT actual F? Make-up is a weird enough concept as it is, and not something I feel especially comfortable with, but at least you can sort of justify that as just experimenting with colour or something. Contouring seems to be saying ‘er yeah, your whole face is just wrong. You might just want to change its shape?’

NOT COOL.

Secondly, regardless of the moral issues, it looks stupid.

This is a photo I took of the display that caught my eye. It’s poor quality as far as photography goes, but you get the point:

contouring

Now correct me if I’m wrong, but this is what I see:

Top left, the before picture – normal, pretty young woman, already wearing plenty of make up but looking perfectly normal.

Bottom right, the after picture – weird blow up doll.

If you look at the top right picture, you can see the essence of contouring. Contouring is saying ‘your nose is too wide, your forehead is too high, your cheeks are too fat, your chin is too wide and your cheekbones are not defined enough.’

Seriously guys! What is going on?!

Is it just me that thinks this whole trend is messed up??

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I came downstairs on Monday morning, while Belle was getting dressed for school, to the usual collection of breakfast debris. For some reason, she seems to be under the impression that she lives in a cafe, and so every morning is a dilemma – do I ask her to tidy up after herself, and face her teenage wrath, or just do it myself and live in peace?

On Monday morning though, I didn’t come down to the usual sticky peanut butter knife or empty cereal bowl. On Monday I came downstairs to find an empty packet of bacon and tomato ketchup flavour crisps on the sofa. 

teenage fussy eater

I was feeling brave, so I decided to confront her.

“You know it’s not okay to eat crisps for breakfast don’t you?” I said, ducking down behind the table. (Metaphorically.)

“But they were bacon flavour,” she said.

?

“So it counts as breakfast,” she clarified.

Ah right. Well that’s fine then. 

Now the issue I have is that I’m actually quite fond of Belle, and don’t want her to get rickets or any other weird vitamin deficiency, but once a child gets to 14, how exactly are you meant to make them do things? This applies generally to be honest, but with food in particular, how are you actually, physically, meant to get them to eat sensible things?! I’d hoped that as she got older, she’d grow out of her fussy eating habits, and be happy to at least be in the same room as a courgette, but if anything it’s getting worse. She used to tolerate peas for instance, but even they have seemed to have slipped on to her ‘don’t make me eat that or I’ll gag’ list.

So how do you do it?

I provide her with a range of tasty options and I encourage her to try new things. I don’t especially want to never have treats in the house, (I like treats), but even if I did resort to that, at 14 she is quite capable of just stopping at the shop on her way home and buying her own crisps. Where has my authority gone?

(More to the point, was it ever there in the first place?)

I just want to be a good parent, or at least the sort that you don’t feel the need to report to anyone, but apart from holding Belle down and stuffing her cheeks with kale, how do I make her eat good things?

Photo – Only Fabrizio/shutterstock

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Now before I start, I just want to say that I have nothing against Lush as a company or shop (apart from from the smell obvs). I don’t want people missing the point and saying on Facebook that I don’t appreciate how much care goes into the products or anything. I mention the shop by name for context. That is all.

Lush bath bombs, sexist

Bath bombs for atmosphere

So. We were in Lush at the weekend, (which you’ve probably gathered by now.) It was me, my fiancé and Belle. Belle likes to go in and rub things on her hands and then make us look at them/sniff them/stroke specific patches to feel how soft they are. I was already a little out of sorts, as the smell was making me want to throw up in the jute shopping bag I was carrying, (like the good middle aged, middle class woman I am.)

We were approached by a suitably effervescent young man, offering to help us, should we need any assistance rubbing things on and off our hands.

“Do you need any help with anything?” he asked fiancé, as I was busy sniffing Belle.

“No, I’m fine thanks,” said fiancé.

“I see,” said the shop assistant, chuckling to himself, “you’re just here to carry the bags and pay!”

I bristled.

Fiancé saw me bristle.

Shop assistant chuckled again, oblivious to the bristle.

“Smell my hand!’ said Belle.

Am I being unreasonable to be offended by this? I know he was just making conversation, but it’s almost the casualness of statements like this that offend me so much. Firstly of course there’s the massive casual assumption that just because I’m a woman, I won’t be earning enough to pay for my own shopping, and that I need a man to do that for me. Secondly, I find it insulting on fiancé’s behalf, that as a man, all he’s good for is opening his wallet and carrying my shopping. Heaven forbid we should be out together as a family because we enjoy each other’s company. Shock horror!

And this guy was young – whatever happened to the enlightened youth, challenging the old way? What does he imagine our family set up looks like? Am I at home during the week, scrubbing pots and ironing shirts to earn my treats at the weekend? Or am I being a dick even getting worked up about it?

We left soon after, but I couldn’t shake the agitation. As we walked home I wondered – will there ever come a time when these gender stereotypes will disappear, or should I accept it as friendly banter and move on?

“Feel my hand,” said Belle, bringing me out of my internal debate, “isn’t it soft?”

“Yes darling, yes it is.”

Image – Peartree / Shutterstock.com

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I’m feeling the pressure this morning.

My post last week about the ad campaign for Cadbury chocolate buttons went a little bit mad on Facebook, and has had more views in the last week than any post I’ve ever written. It just goes to show that you can spend hours crafting something informative and interesting, or you can bash out a 10 minute rant about chocolate buttons, and you’ll never really know what’s going to capture people’s imagination.

The trouble is, that never really having had a post blow up like that, I don’t know what to do next. I feel like I should be able to craft something hilarious and newsworthy, something that will make people say ‘we thought that post about the buttons was good but this, this is brilliant!’

Unfortunately I don’t have anything along those lines, and the more I try to come up with something, the worse it gets. Seriously, I’m staring at the screen and all I can think about is laundry. Why laundry? Or my last water bill. I had that through the other day and we were slightly in credit, so that was nice.

I’m also not used to attracting so much comment, and it made me realise why I normally tend to avoid controversy wherever possible. I didn’t personally think that writing about a Cadbury button poster was controversial, but apparently, on Facebook, you can upset anyone. 
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Walking through town to my office yesterday morning, I came across an advert on the side of a bus stop that left me feeling a little baffled.

Here it is:

Cadbury Button ad

Now first up, before I start ranting, I want to make it clear that:

  • I think it’s a very sweet and lovely photo
  • I love Cadbury in any form, buttons or otherwise

Right, now that’s clear…

What the actual f**k?

I don’t know about you, but having a small child clamber on me, whilst trying to poke me in the eye with my own glasses, is one of my least favourite things. It is definitely NOT one of those moments where I think ‘Ahhh! This is what having kids is all about! This is better than Cadbury buttons!’ I think back to Belle when she was younger – I would have been more likely thinking ‘Argh! When will I ever be allowed my own personal space? Why can this idiot child not even understand how to put on glasses?!’

I can only assume that the planning for this advertising campaign went something like this:

SCENE: Six 21 year olds sit around a glass table, sipping skinny lattes

1ST 21 YEAR OLD: Guys, we should totally capture the joy of parenting, and give people a warm fuzzy feeling.

2ND 21 YEAR OLD (looks up briefly from SnapChat): Dude, great plan! What exactly ARE the joys of parenting?

3RD 21 YEAR OLD: Err… Those special moments innit? Where your kid is all up in your face?

CHORUS OF 21 YEAR OLDS: Yeah, great brainstorming guys.

Because surely if you actually HAD children, you would understand that having your eye poked out by an overactive toddler is NOT FUN.

Some alternative campaign ideas that spark similar feelings for me:

  • Waiting for ages in a car park for a space and then having some dick in a BMW whizz in front of you
  • Banging your toe really hard against a doorframe
  • Trying to do some work at home and being forced to watch ‘a show’ from your children. Twice.

If Cadbury really want to connect with mums, and create a special, warm feeling, may I suggest the following:

  • Picture of a mum, locked in the bathroom, pretending to do a poo whilst secretly eating buttons and looking at Instagram
  • Picture of a mum, back to the camera, facing an open fridge, pretending that she is considering what to make for dinner but actually snuffling buttons out of an open bag in the fridge door.
  • Picture of a mum, with buttons hidden in an empty tub of vitamins, telling toddler they can’t have any because they are ‘mummy’s special medicine’.

I would be down with any of these.

You’re welcome Cadbury.

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A couple of new signs have appeared recently on my little stretch of the M5 – the bit between Taunton and Bristol. They are identical, at about a ten mile interval? They annoy me every time I drive past them, to the point where this weekend I made fiancé drive past extra slowly so that I could take a picture and rant about them.

This is it:

motorway petrol price sign M5

This sign tells me three things:

One – someone, somewhere, had a massively underspent motorway road sign budget. How else can you justify it? How much must it cost to have made this sign, connected it up with the petrol stations, get it set up, and then maintain it? And to what end?? (See points two and three.)

Two – petrol on the motorway is a complete rip off. If you have been foolish enough to leave your refuelling until you’re on the M5, (which is me obviously), this sign acts as a helpful reminder of what an idiot you are. 

Three – just in case you weren’t now depressed enough, it then goes on to let you know that there’s no point even hanging on a bit longer, as you will be ripped off by exactly the same amount for the next 39 miles. Haha! You feel really stupid now don’t you? View Post

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I thought I would jump on the EU referendum wagon today, for a short rant, not because I am hugely political, but because I saw this outside Wetherspoons on my way to work:

Wertherspoons EU referendum Brexit

Let’s take a minute shall we?

“Only Wetherspoon can gather the facts…”

Now I’m no expert, but instinctively, this doesn’t feel true. Surely there are people other than Wetherspoon, better qualified, more experienced perhaps, who might be in a slightly better position to gather the facts about the EU referendum for me? 

In response, someone on Twitter shared this picture with me, which I hadn’t seen, but is also very funny. This one is true. 

 

You could argue I suppose that when it comes down to it, Wetherspoon may be as well informed as anyone else who will be voting, and this is the bit that really annoys me – why is this even a referendum? Most of us, myself included, are just too stupid to be able to make an informed decision about this. This is an example of why we have an elected government – we have picked people to find out about stuff, and make these sort of decisions for us. The fact that we, the ignorant masses, have been put in charge of this terrifies me. It feels like a parent letting a toddler gorge themselves on Haribo, knowing they are going to be sick – someone needs to step in.

We can’t be trusted.

The majority of us will be voting based on fear, or misunderstanding, or because the newspaper we read tells us to, or because a celebrity we admire has said they are voting in a particular way. I have a economics degree, and yet I will be voting to stay in mainly because Boris Johnson wants out, and I feel like I have to disagree with everything he stands for on some kind of principle, the very foundations of which I’m not entirely sure about.

We are not informed enough to make these sorts of choices.

Have the government not taken a moment to look around them and realise this? We go out in flip flops the minute the sun pokes through the clouds, we eat ourselves to the point of obesity just because sugar is fun, we watch X Factor year after year even though it’s ridiculous, we eat in Wetherspoons for heaven’s sake.

We are not clever enough for this shit. 

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For about two months now, I’ve had a huge cardboard box in the middle of my living room. It originally had two large barstools in it, so it really is massive. Since having the barstools taken out though, it has been converted into a ‘den’. It has working lights, a welcome mat, and is covered by a blanket.

Now, I wouldn’t mind so much if Belle spent every evening sat in it, amusing herself with old-fashioned past times, stitching herself a little blanket or writing stories or something, but she has been in it perhaps once in the last three weeks.

“Do you think we could get rid of your cardboard box house now?” I ask, only vaguely hopeful that the answer will be yes.

“NO!’ says Belle, aghast. “I love it!”

“But you don’t play in it?”

“Yes I do! All the time!”

Then of course she will spend half an hour in it, just to make the point. 

You would think after 20 years of parenting that I would be past the stage of having to pretend to like things made out of old cardboard boxes, but apparently this particular avenue of pleasure is still well and truly open for me. You might think, if nothing else, that the cardboard box creations would at least have become more discreet, but no, this den is as big as an armchair. 

If it was a robot, made out of old egg boxes, I could far more easily hide it on top of the fridge to test to see if Belle would miss it. That’s always a good tactic – ‘Oh, that super cool space craft you made? Oh yes, I just popped that on top of the fridge to display it – I wanted to be able to see it from my height more easily.’ If they don’t notice – which they normally don’t – you can then move from stage 1 (top of fridge) to stage 2 (outside bin) after a couple of weeks.

What is the fascination?!? It’s a cardboard box for heaven’s sake. Why to kids always want to keep rubbish? Why can’t you just put the cereal box in the recycling like a normal person?

I found this picture, showing a mum smiling fondly in the background – this is clearly a mum who is new to parenting, for whom the novelty of having a house full of crap has yet to wear off. ‘It’s so sweet,’ she says lovingly to friends, ‘he unwraps his gifts and is always more interested in the box!’
child in a cardboard box

The one thing that Belle’s den has in its favour at least is that it is well put together. (You’d hope though, to be fair, that by the age of 13 you could build a decent box den.) With smaller children, the added frustration is that most of what they make is actually just rubbish. They have no skill, no flair. Yeah, yeah, it’s all about the creativity and having fun, sure, but come on kids, get it together – it’s really hard to gush enthusiastically when you’ve literally just stuck together a few toilet rolls. 

If, when they built a robot, it looked something like this, or could actually do something useful, like the hoovering, then perhaps as parents we’d feel less like driving it immediately to the tip or crying into a chocolate cake quietly in our bedrooms, wondering when our homes stopped being things of beauty, filled with flowers and books and hopes and dreams, and turned into a giant recycling truck.

Or perhaps that’s just me?

cardboard robot

Images – Evgeny Atamanenko and Sunny studio from shutterstock.

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I have an issue with lip balms. 

I don’t object to the concept – a lip balm is a very useful thing, especially at this time of the year – it’s more the reality of lip balms.

Yesterday I took Belle to Sainsbury’s. I was encouraging a bit of interaction/exercise by trying to get her to run and find ten different items before I got to the checkout, but by item seven, (chicken gravy granules), she had lost interest.

“I’m going to look at the make-up,” she said. “I need a lip balm.”

I know for a fact* that there are already 127 lip balms in her bedroom, so why does she need another one? Think about it for a moment, have you ever actually got to the end of a lip balm and thought ‘Oh look, my lip balm has run out, I need to buy another one?’

No, of course you haven’t, because they are deliberately designed to get lost about three weeks after you buy one, giving you the impression that you really need to buy another one. Or you will be out, and the lip balm you always keep in your bag will have purposefully jumped out at home, so that you have to buy it a chum as you pass through Boots.

Here are a few facts I have made up about lip balms, which I feel must be true:

  • If you put together all the lip balms I have ever bought for myself and my daughters, they would take up an area the size of Wales. (It’s always Wales isn’t it? Why Wales?!)
  • If I had put all the money I’ve spent on lip balms over the years into a savings account, I would now have enough money to buy a small three bedroom house in Leicester.
  • If you piled all of the lip balms I have bought on top of each other, (you might need glue), they would reach to the moon and back two and a half times.

I just don’t understand them. Where do they go?! Why am I always buying them?! Why is my house not literally full of lip balm?

Does anyone else feel like this about lip balm?!

lip balms

*Not an actual fact, but it feels like it.

Image – images72/shutterstock

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