Advertisement feature in association with First News

When my sister Annabel and I were little we had our own newspaper called The Banjo Times. It was excellent – a sort of magazine style journal packed full of useful news and views, horoscopes and fashions that Annabel had ‘rubbed’ on her fashion stylist set. (If you know you know.) Sometimes our one-day-to-be-step-sister Rebecca would contribute illustrations, and now she’s a well known children’s book author and illustrator, so there you go. Would she be where she is now without that first break on The Banjo Times? We will never know.

As I’ve got older I’ve gradually isolated myself from pretty much any kind of news because I find the tone generally so downbeat and depressing – it feels like it’s only ever the bad news that makes the headlines. I definitely feel like I miss out, but it seems impossible as an adult to properly filter the media you consume.

Not so for kids thanks to First News, the UK’s bestselling newspaper for kids.

First News subscription offer

I think I should probably just start reading First News myself

First News is an honest but upbeat newspaper for kids aged 7-14, full of news stories, accessible articles on world events, interviews, photos, games and more. It’s a weekly newspaper, delivered either as a paper copy through your letterbox or digitally via the Frist News app. Although it’s a newspaper for children, and does give children a platform to share their stories too, it’s written by professional, award-winning journalists, so you know your kids are getting a high standard of reporting.

It’s not that First News wants to avoid talking about difficult subjects either, it’s just that they want to make sure that the news kids are consuming is age appropriate and impartial. We can’t stop kids overhearing the news on the radio or TV, but catching snippets of the news or conversation like this can be scary when children don’t have the context for it.

First News back issues

First News gives that context in a straightforward way, meaning when kids do hear their parents talking about the cost of living crisis for example, it seems way less frightening.

It’s not all news though, there are sections for kids to write in with their own stories, sports coverage, books, news on gaming, and competitions and cartoons too.

First News

If First News sounds like something that your kids would enjoy, then you’re in luck! First News has very kindly offered a FREE subscription for one lucky reader, which can be taken either as a three month print and digital bundle, with actual newspapers delivered to your door, or a 12 month digital subscription via the First News app.

To enter simply complete as many of the options in the widget below as possible. The more you do the more tickets you’ll get in the prize hat. The competition will close at 11.59pm on November 3rd 2022 and full T&Cs apply.

In the meantime, if you want to crack on and give First News a try, or maybe buy it as a gift for Christmas, you can get a no obligation free four week trial here.

Good luck!

Win a First News subscription

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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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Who doesn’t love a good candle? They may be the ultimate self-care cliché, but a good scented candle really does have a positive impact.

Scented candles have become a big part of my work from home life during the pandemic. Where once I’d head out to a cafe in town to work for the morning, (and not just for the brunch, honestly), I’ve instead had to create a workspace for myself at home. It’s been hard. I spent a lot of 2020 not working very much at all, and when I finally forced myself to put down the murder mysteries and come in from the garden, I repainted my spare room a dark green in a bid to create myself a serious but soothing work environment. (I have an Instagram highlight called workspace if you want to have a nose.)

I also bought about 48 scented candles.

I have a whole row of them lined up on the windowsill that faces me as I sit at my desk, and more on the desk itself. Whenever I realise I’ve been at my desk for an hour and done nothing but share Tinder screenshots on Instagram stories, I light some candles. I find the process of lighting them in itself can be a useful ritual, signalling to my brain that it’s time to get on with things, and the gently flickering light and the soft smells that quickly fill up my tiny green office lull me into a more contented state of work flow.

One of my favourite candles at the moment was a gift from Nooraa – one of their dark amber and sandlewood soy candles, made in the UK and with natural soy wax. Nooraa is all about sustainable luxury, so their candles contain no plastics, aren’t tested on animals and are 100% vegan.

Nooraa scented soy candle View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Competition Finder

In my opinion, Valentine’s Day is one of the most overrated occasions ever invented.

Regardless of whether you’re single or in a couple, Valentine’s Day has something to make you feel like a chump. Couples get to go out for dinner and spend twice as much as they normally would on a mediocre meal, just because there’s a single rose in a glass jar on the table, and they have the cringe-fest that is Valentine’s Day gift giving.

Love log anyone??

(I will never be able to forget the love log.)

Singletons on the other hand get to wallow in the self-pity bath that is The Media, (she says, in a scary voice, as though the media is a devilish beast that lives in a cave), surrounded by Instagram images of happy people crafting ‘I love you’ signs for their partners out of pine cones and generally looking like they might just die with the joy of having found The One.

STOP THE TAPE.

This is not reality. Just as there are millions of people all over the world in relationships they could probably do without, so too are there equal numbers of single people absolutely living their best single lives, relishing the fact that they will never have to fake looking pleased to have been given a love log.

Today I am celebrating ALL THE SINGLE LADIES with some ideas for alternative ways to enjoy Valentine’s Day and I am teaming up with Competition Finder to give one lucky person a £50 One4all gift card that you can spend in loads of different shops and restaurants.

It’s time to TREAT YOSELF.

First though, here are some alternative Valentine’s Day ideas for singletons to help get you in the mood for self love…

Take yourself out for brunch

Dinner is the classic option for Valentine’s Day, but with dinner you have to surround yourself by couples pretending to be deeply in love and definitely not looking at who’s on the other tables. Plus if you’re new to eating alone then dinner can feel a bit high pressure – brunch is much more low key, and also much better value.

If you’re local to me then I have recommendations in my brunch club, otherwise do some research, pick your spot and go and indulge in a meal alone. Revel in being able to take as many pictures of your brunch as you like without anyone rolling their eyes at you. Try not to cry if you can’t find a good eggs florentine.

*coughs*

brunch club slummy single mummy View Post

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I have two questions for you:

Do you like chocolate?

Dur, silly question.

Do you like art?

Okay, slightly more pompous. What does it even mean to like art?? I had a boyfriend once who on our first date brought out a set of postcards he had prewritten with questions to find out things about me. To be honest at the time I kind of liked it, because I’m drawn to intense weirdos, but one of the questions was something like ‘how do you feel about art?’ and that was a bit much, even for me. Art just IS isn’t it? Some stuff you like, some is pointless, e.g. all modern art.

I JEST! (But seriously, modern art, I don’t get it?)

Anyway.

In this post I am COLLIDING the worlds of chocolate and art with a giveaway of chocolate from Coco, the chocolatiers who create not just beautiful chocolate, but beautiful wrappings too, with prints and patterns created both by individual artists and as collaborations with organisations like the Tate and The Wallace Collection Museum.

It’s all very lovely and also delicious. I can testify to this as I ate about three different bars whilst wrapping presents because I had bought shed loads of it and forgotten who I planned to give it to.

Today I’m giving you the chance to share in this artistic, chocolatey joy. Just at the point where you thought you could never eat another sweet thing in your life, you realise that Christmas is done and real life resumes and perhaps what you need first is just a little square or two of gin and tonic dark chocolate.

Win chocolate

If you’d like to win ALL THREE of these bars of artisan chocolate, guaranteed* to make your life at least 35% better than it was before, then all you have to do is enter my giveaway via the widget below.

The first entry takes you for a little look at the food section of my blog, just in case this post has whetted your appetite for a spot of baking or brunch, and the rest are social media related entries. You’re not obliged to follow my Facebook or Instagram pages once you’ve had a look, but if you would like to I would very much appreciate it. It’s hard work to stay visible on Instagram these days, so I am always grateful for any interactions. Thank you. Kind regards.

The competition will close at 11.59pm on January 8th 2022 and full T&Cs apply. Good luck!

 

Win luxury chocolate from Coco

*Not guaranteed.

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A few months ago I went to a Christmas press event in London. It seems bonkers to say, but actually that was probably a bit late even for Christmas press stuff. (Most monthly magazines have a 4-6 month lead in time and so ‘Christmas in July’ is the theme of a lot of events.)

It was a little heavy on the toys for me, but I had several nice chats throughout the day with a not unattractive man who was cooking up tasty treats on the George Foreman grill stand, so that was nice.

One of my best bits though was chatting to the team behind Bath House, the artisan fragrance and natural skincare company. Bath House makes a whole range of gorgeous products for hair, body and skin and their big thing is sustainability – they are committed to an ethical and transparent supply chain, want to reduce plastic use wherever possible, and use loads of recyclable materials. They’re good people basically.

The thing that stuck with me though was their range of fragrances and the process that goes into them. Rather than just thinking ‘oh let’s have something floral blah blah’, a lot of their fragrances are designed to try and capture a FEELING. The nice chap from Bath House told me about one of their newest creations, called Hide & Seek.

His starting point, he told me, was an actual game of hide and seek. Not played by children though – his idea was for an adult game of hide and seek, perhaps as part of a weekend away in a country house.

Picture the scene… It’s 1922, there are martinis, beaded dresses and snow outside. (I may be embellishing some of his story here). The seeker starts to count and we scatter throughout the old house, looking for somewhere to hide. I find myself in the dining room and hide myself behind a heavy silk curtain, a deep pink, decorated with roses. I try to breath quietly, but I’m excited, hoping that I’m hidden well, but not *too* well for a certain person to be able to find me and squeeze behind the curtain…

Yes. Well.

*coughs* View Post

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I’ve been doing a lot of Christmas shopping this week, and by Christmas shopping I mean ‘looking at websites I like and buying myself treats with a few token gifts thrown in.’ To be honest I didn’t even bother throwing in the token gifts when I was shopping at Bookblock, I literally just bought myself six cocktail miniatures.

I was so taken with the Bookblock website, which sells all manner of delightful food and drink bits and gifts and really would be perfect for genuine Christmas shopping, that I got in touch and asked them if they’d like to do a little Instagram giveaway with me.

‘Sure!’ they said. ‘Let’s give away one of these Christmas cocktail sets!’

Christmas cocktail set

Fantastic. I got the competition up on Instagram. Here’s what I wrote… View Post

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Advertisement feature

Hands up if you like pizza!

Who am I kidding, we don’t need a show of hands, everyone loves pizza right? Of course they do. Which is why I know today’s competition is going to be a popular one.

Today I’m giving away an Optima Pizza Express Napoli – a miniature version of a professional pizza oven that you can use at home to create deliciously crisp pizza in a matter of minutes. The Optima pizza oven is normally £169, so this giveaway is a fantastic chance to bag yourself a very decent prize indeed.

Optima pizza oven

It looks the part doesn’t it?

Optima Pizza Express Napoli was designed by Gabriele Ferrari and manufactured entirely in Italy in the picturesque Italian Modena. Two heating elements (bottom and top) heat the interior of Optima Pizza Express Napoli up to 450°C in just 10-15 minutes – the temperature that professional, large pizza ovens achieve – and then pizza can be cooked in just 4-5 minutes. The base of the oven is made of refractory stone, which draws excess moisture from the dough, meaning no soggy bottoms. You can use the over with homemade or shop bought pizzas, so it’s super flexible.

All very jolly.

I had a go with my favourite pizza recipe, which uses ricotta and roasted garlic as a base instead of tomato sauce. I don’t know what Italians would think of this, whether it’s frowned upon to use a non-tomato base, but hey ho, I’m doing it anyway because that’s the kind of gal I am. Remember when I made that ham and cucumber pizza? I’m not afraid to push pizza boundaries.

My pizza is a good one to use up roast dinner leftovers too, so basically it’s environmentally friendly? Food waste and all that? I don’t know, maybe not, but it’s tasty. View Post

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Advertisement feature

Have you come across the term ‘manscaping’? It’s a mix of the words ‘man’ and ‘landscaping’ and tends to refer to things below the belt.

Ooer.

If you have a man in your life, (or you ARE a man), who likes to keep his bits and pieces nice and tidy then STEP RIGHT UP because today I have a fantastic giveaway for you – the chance to win the The Performance Package from Manscaped – everything you need to keep yourself well groomed. The Performance Package would make a fab Christmas present and it’s worth over £100, so read on and find out how to enter!

What’s in the Manscaped Performance Package?

The Manscaped Performance Package is an amazing bundle of manscaping goodies including:

  • The new Lawn Mower 4.0, the fourth generation groin and body trimmer featuring cutting-edge ceramic blades to reduce grooming accidents thanks to advanced SkinSafe™Technology.
  • The Weed Whacker, a nose and ear trimmer for the toughest weeds. Designed with proprietary SkinSafe™ technology, the Weed Whacker helps reduce nicks, snags, and tugs.
  • The Crop Preserver® ball deodorant – helps create an anti-chafing barrier and provides long-lasting freshness below-the-waist.
  • The Crop Reviver® ball toner – features soothing aloe and witch hazel extracts to keep the highly sensitive areas of the body cool, calm and protected.
  • The Performance Package also comes with a free premium travel bag – The Shed – and a free pair of anti-chafing boxers!

Manscaped discount code

I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a pretty nice prize. It would definitely make a better Christmas present than a Lynx giftset from Superdrug.

I’m sold! How do I enter?

Cutting to the chase, I like it.

To enter for the chance to win the Manscaped Performance Package, simply complete as many of the entry mechanisms below as you can. The more ways you enter, the better your chances of winning this fabulous prize. The competition will close at 11.59pm on 20th November 2021 and full T&Cs apply.

Enter now – your balls will thank you!

If you can’t wait to see if you win you can shop with Manscaped NOW and get 20% off – the discount will be applied automatically when you shop via this link.

Win a Manscaped Performance Package worth over £100

Manscaped discount code

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Post in partnership with Competition Finder

It’s September, back to school, and that means one thing – STATIONERY.

I don’t have school aged children anymore, so my life doesn’t feel quite as defined by the rhythm of the school day and term times as it used to, but I haven’t lost my love of a new pencil case. To be honest I’m not sure that was ever really linked to being a parent, I thing I’m just a sucker for stationery.

I’ve teamed up with Competition Finder today to bring you the ultimate back to school blog post – four of my favourite stationery picks PLUS the chance to win £50 of Amazon vouchers, so you can have your own stationery blow out. (Or spend it on something else, like dog food or a hand whisk, I don’t really mind.)

Competition Finder is a great place to find all the latest competitions online. Competition details are organised by type, so whether you’re looking for holidays, cash prizes or something else, Competition Finder can provide you with all the details you need.

Before we get down to the nitty gritty of winning Amazon vouchers though, lets indulge ourselves (me) for a minute and look at some bits and pieces that you really need on your desk, right now.

The Heirloom collection from Katie Leamon

I’ve bought a lot of notebooks in my time, (I dread to think), but I’m not sure I’ve ever come across as perfect a specimen as the notebooks in the Heirloom collection from Lily and Lionel for Katie Leamon. They are just exquisite – the prints, the quality, the thickness – they’re the absolute dream notebook.

They’re blank pages, I cannot abide a lined notebook, and they have a lay flat design, so no awkward spine cracking or holding pages open while you make notes. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Preply

I don’t have a great childhood memory, but there are snippets of things that stick in my mind, conversations, feelings. Sometimes I’m not sure if I actually remember them anymore, or just remember remembering them, like the dream I had when I was about four years old of walking over a hill with my school satchel.

One thing I do remember though is reading Anne of Green Gables. I must have been young, (I hope I was anyway), because I remember being incredibly earnest about it and the type feeling very small. I remember going into the kitchen to find my mum to show her, proudly, that I had already read three whole pages. You’d wonder at that rate if I might still be reading it, but I must have picked up the pace a bit because I know I finished.

What I didn’t know until about ten minutes ago though is that Anne of Green Gables is the most translated children’s book to come out of Canada and that it has been translated into over 36 different languages.

I learnt this fun fact, (which feels like the kind of fact I might never forget), from online language school Preply. Preply has ten of thousands of online tutors in 185 countries around the world, so you can learn a language with an experienced native tutor. They cater of adults and children alike.

Of course Anne of Green Gables doesn’t even come close to The Little Prince.

Antoine de Saint- Exupéry currently holds the Guinness record for the most translated author and The Little Prince has been translated into over 382 different languages. I didn’t even know there were over 382 different languages, although I just Googled it and apparently there are around 6,500 so now I feel like a right idiot.

Anne of Green Gables

Here’s the top ten by country if you fancy a bit of international reading inspiration: View Post

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This pork and cider casserole recipe post is brought to you in association with Thorner’s Farm Shop.

pork and apple and cider slow cooker casserole recipe

I don’t know about you but it feels to me like the further we get into this pandemic, the more my life revolves around food.

I’ve always been the sort of person who thinks about what they’re going to have for lunch while they’re eating breakfast, but when food shopping is pretty much the only sort of shopping you can do, and the days and weeks stretch ahead for miles, snacks become EVERYTHING.

Not that I’m complaining. I love eating, and not being able to eat out and get my brunch fix has meant I’ve spent more time trying new recipes and eating delicious things at home. Like last weekend for instance when I had a delivery from Thorner’s Farm Shop in Shepton Mallet and cooked a feast of slow cooker pork and cider casserole and pineapple cake with Malibu frosting. (You heard me.)

I’ve been a fan of Thorner’s since I discovered their award-winning pies recently, and I’ve had my love for them reinforced by the fact that the adorable deli that I walk to across the fields – Gaia Garden – has become a stockist.

Lovely walk through the countryside? Delightful! Pie to take home for dinner? Don’t mind if I do.

Thorner’s stock all kinds of things besides pies though, including an ever-expanding range of local meats. I wanted to showcase the variety of their online farm shop through this post, so in my weekend feast I used a fruit and a vegetable box, local cider, outdoor reared diced pork, local butter and eggs. I also had a very lovely Somerset wine – the Aldwick Estate Buteo – but I have to confess that this was so good that I drank it all before remembering to take a photo. Do go and check it out though. I recommend.

I was particularly impressed with the veg and fruit boxes. My fruit box for example included apples, satsumas, pears, bananas, a lemon and a lime, blueberries, grapes and a whole pineapple. (Hence the pineapple cake.) I think this is really good value for £9.99. View Post

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