New year, new decade and all that, so this morning I indulged in some typical new year activities i.e. looking back through social media pictures over the years and being drawn into my own story, where I always look so much younger and healthier and like I’ve spent every single day doing interesting things with interesting people or having interesting thoughts.

I spent a few minutes sighing wistfully and wondering what happened to the me that hired a jukebox for the weekend just to have a Grease themed party, and then I looked through the pictures on my phone rather than the carefully curated ones and remembered that most of the time I was actually just eating beans on toast and watching First Dates on catch up.

I’m not sure which is worse really – sighing over a life that was mostly imagined or realising you’ve probably been quite boring all along.

While I was in my phone pictures I found this, which I saved from a book I read in March 2018 and have been meaning to do something with ever since. March 2018 was a few weeks before I turned 40 and clearly I was feeling it.

It made me realise that although I didn’t put my midlife unravelling into words until over a year later in this post from June last year, and even wrote then that I felt taken by surprise, the first loose threads were already there back in that March, which is nearly two years ago now.

I read the unravelling post back to myself before I wrote this and felt that same twist of recognition in my chest, which makes you wonder doesn’t it, how long is it meant to last? View Post

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When I lived in Bristol I didn’t often venture south of the river into Bedminster. Partly I didn’t really think I was cool enough, but also I wasn’t convinced there was any reason to visit. Bedminster is the grotty bit of Bristol right?

Wrong!

Okay sure, some parts of it are still ‘up and coming’, but in terms of shopping, eating and entertainment it actually has a lot going on. I should probably feel more of a soft spot for it as an area too as Bedminster used to be its own town, separate from Bristol, and until 1831 was part of Somerset. Fun fact for you there.

Nowadays I can’t stake any claim to it geographically, but I went to have a wander around to see how things have changed since 1831, (hint: a lot), and to give you some tips for places to visit the next time you’re in Bedminster, especially if you’re heading to Bristol to do some Christmas shopping.

I’ve been into south Bristol quite a few times, mainly to see shows at The Tobacco Factory or to visit their outdoor market, but I’ve never ventured much past the immediate area around the theatre. The top end of North Street definitely has plenty going on, including the new Greta artwork, painted for Upfest this year, and the amazing Souk Kitchen where I ate possibly the best flatbread I’ve ever tasted.

Greta painting Bedminster

Pay attention to the car to give you an idea of the scale

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honesty in blogging

Honesty has always been incredibly important to me.

That sounds kind of obvious, but when you start to pay attention it’s amazing how many little lies we let slip through just in the course of a day – excuses for not wanting to go out in the evening, white lies to children – it all adds up.

The older I get, the more I try to avoid these little lies, even if they feel like they might not do any harm. It might feel easier to tell a friend you can’t come out because you have a headache, but is it really any harder to just say ‘you know what, I really do want to see you, but today has just been exhausting and I know if we go out tonight I’m going to be rubbish company and neither of us will have a good time’?

I also try to be honest because I want other people to be honest with me. I’d much prefer to ask someone how they are and hear that actually, things aren’t great, if that’s the reality of their situation. I find it hard to be all ‘oh yeah, fine, great!’ with people when that’s not how I’m feeling and it’s through our vulnerability, sharing the bad stuff as well as the good, that we form real connections with people.

When it comes to blogging and social media it’s the same – I want to present a real version of myself so that you feel that the relationship we have as writer and reader is a genuine one. I’m not afraid to tell you when I’m sad, or when I get my vagina rejuvenated, and I like that. It’s like we’re chums.

What I’m finding more and more difficult though is feeling like I’m telling you the truth, but not the whole truth. View Post

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When I mention TikTok to anyone over the age of about 30, the usual response is a kind of blank stare. ‘What’s TikTok?’ they ask, saying ‘TikTok’ in the same slow, confused way that my mum says ‘mobile data’, sounding out every syllable with equal emphasis, like it’s a foreign language.

Chances are though that even if you don’t use TikTok, your young adults do. As we all know, responsible parents take internet safety very seriously and definitely don’t just watch Gardener’s World pretending not to have noticed that their teen is an hour over the screen time limit.

Seriously though, it is important to at least have an understanding of what TikTok is about, and how to use TikTok’s safety and security features, even if you’d rather be planning next year’s borders. It’s important to understand how to use it safely.

I’ve put together a TikTok guide for parents to help you get to grips with what it’s all about.

What is TikTok?

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a free app for 13+, (available on Android and IOS), that lets you record, share and watch short videos. They often involve goofing around to popular music, (I said ‘popular music’ in my head like an old person – ‘ooh is that in the hit parade?’), and TikTok can actually be influential in turning songs into hits.

Belle uses TikTok a lot for making short dance videos or odd montages where she jumps in the air and lands in a different outfit. The last thing that Belle made and showed me was a short video, set to music, of her pushing one of Joey’s toy cars slowly towards a woodlouse on the carpet. No, I don’t understand either, but this is what counts as funny nowadays apparently. My point is that there is a massive range of content on TikTok and it’s a great platform for exploring your creativity. View Post

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It’s 10 years ago now since I gave up the nine to five and became self-employed.

Bee and Belle were fourteen and seven at the time and I made the decision for a variety of reasons. Firstly, I may have been drunk. Secondly I was sick of wasting my time for not much money – it felt like I was spending hours at my desk and often accomplishing very little. Not (always) because I was being slack, but because there’s always so much down time, waiting on decisions, waiting on management.

There has been a lot of research in fact into the amount of actual WORK that people get done on the average working day and most of it, like this study, concludes than in the average eight hour day at the office, most people do less than three hours of work.

It’s ridiculous isn’t it?

I hated the rigidity of it, having to turn up and be at your desk between set hours, just because that’s what everybody does. It felt so pointless, especially when, as a single parent, I was having to do things like forgo school performances and pay for extra childcare. I spent five years after Belle was born stressing myself out, working badly paid, part-time jobs for which I was generally over-qualified, driving from one job to another on my lunch break, scoffing a sandwich in the car. It wasn’t much fun and I didn’t make much money.

I knew that if I worked for myself I could get the flexibility I needed to prioritise my children. I also knew that I was smart and could work quickly and would probably end up working far fewer hours for the same money, if not more.

I was right.

Fast forward 10 years then to last week, when I was listening to a presentation about business growth.

“Put your hand up,” said the speaker, “if you would like to grow your business.” He smiled and kind of chuckled, as though that was an obvious question. Who wouldn’t want to grow their business? Dur.

I kept my hand down. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Funky Pigeon

I’m going to be completely honest here and say that in my younger days I would have found the idea of personalised Christmas gifts a little tacky. I say ‘my younger days’ like I’m referring to the 1870s or something – I just mean when I was maybe in my early twenties and still clinging to the illusion that if I just tried hard enough, and walked with enough nonchalance, that I could be COOL.

Obviously I can’t – I have a collection of Nancy Drew books and the Inspector Morse box set – but the lovely thing about getting older is that you don’t actually care any more. I love that sassy girl detective and you can like it or lump it. Plus I just remembered that when Belle was a baby I had a photo of her and Bee put on a mousemat, so, perhaps I’ve always secretly loved personalised gifts.

If you fancy putting the face of someone you love on a Christmas bauble this year then you’ve come to the right place! I put this post together with the help of Funky Pigeon’s range of first Christmas gifts and with the exclusive code JO20 you can get 20% off baubles, cushions, snow globes, and photo blocks until December 23rd.

This Christmas will be our first with baby Joey, which opens up lots of opportunities for personalised ‘baby’s first Christmas’ items. Joey is adorable – put him on a personalised cushion and seriously, what’s not to love?

Personalised cushion

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Advertisement feature in association with Silk’n

Yep, that’s right. Who doesn’t want a life free from ‘worrying about vaginal inconveniences’? It’s a quote from the Silk’n website and the turn of phrase made me smile. I pictured trying to get into a car park, late for a meeting, and being blocked by a row of inconveniently placed vaginas.

It’s not that obviously.

What it actually refers to is all of those issues that come with age, childbirth and menopause – weakening vaginal walls, urinary incontinence, diminished sexual pleasure – all those really FUN things that we experience as women. God, it’s a great life isn’t it?

You may remember that a while ago I went and had my vagina zapped at a clinic in London to tackle the same issues, and as great as it was, that was a one off treatment that only lasted for around 18 months. It was also pricey and had to be done by an expert. The Silk’n Tightra has a similar aim, but it’s the first of these kind of ‘women’s intimate health’ devices that you can use at home. It’s also a lot more affordable – buy it direct from the Silk’n website at the moment for £309.

Silk’n Tightra uses clinically tested and proven Bi-Polar Radiofrequency energy – the same technology that’s used a lot in facial treatments to tighten and rejuvenate skin. Home facial devices have become increasingly popular as an alternative to paying for expensive clinical treatments, and the Silk’n Tightra is just like this, only for your downstairs bits.

Here’s a proper video explaining exactly how it works, in case my incredibly high tech explanation wasn’t enough:

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It’s no secret that I once cut my front lawn with a pair of scissors.

I was maybe 20 years old and living for the first time alone with Bee, who must have been about three. It was around the same time that I had a couple of candles to light the kitchen because I couldn’t afford to replace the strip light when it blew, so a lawnmower wasn’t exactly top of my list of priorities. When I say it like that it sounds rather Dickensian, but honestly I don’t think I minded the lighting. Who doesn’t love a candle for a bit of atmosphere?

The lawn wasn’t massive either – it was just the little patch outside the front of our tiny house – but it had grown to embarrassing lengths, the kind of length that makes you feel bad about yourself every time you come home and have to look at it while you open the front door and run inside as quickly as possible.

As I’ve got older I’ve got much better at doing sensible grown up things like mowing the lawn, but it’s still not one of my most favourite jobs, and if I don’t keep on top of it it can quickly slip back to those ‘get in the front door quick and avoid eye contact with the neighbours’ days.

The last month or so has been like that.

Bosch Rotak 34 lawnmower review

We’ve had all of this random rain, which is always tricky for lawns, and the house is north facing so it’s hard for the grass to dry out properly between showers unless the weather is really warm. Then I had that broken leg to contend with… not really on the leg thing, I’m just making excuses.

It wasn’t horrendous, but it wasn’t not GOOD exactly, especially around the edges, which were distinctly bushy. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with SockShop

Socks are like peas.

Peas are underrated in the vegetable world, but are incredibly versatile, can jazz up the blandest of dinners and are VERY tasty. Socks are just the same, apart from the tasty bit. Socks just sit there, balled up at the back of your drawer, when they could be making a massive impact on your wardrobe, breathing new life into old outfits.

To make the point, I challenged Belle, who has far more imagination and fashion sense that me, to style a working week’s worth of outfits, based around five different pairs of socks from the bamboo range at SockShop. Bamboo is a brilliant material for socks. It’s super soft, has natural anti-bacterial properties and thermoregulates – helping your feet stay warm even when it’s cold outside. SockShop sells a huge range of bamboo socks, including lots of novelty socks and a rainbow socks collection, where 20% of every sale goes to the LGBT Foundation.

My hope is that Belle’s sock styling will inspire you to take your socks more seriously, and that by the end of this post you’ll be desperate to enter my competition to win £30 to spend at SockShop and bring some new sock sassiness to your own wardrobe.

Let’s take a look at Belle’s looks…

Monday – the sassy ankle sock

It’s Monday, you’re feeling the back to school vibes, but rather than get down in the dumps about it, why not embrace it with a pair of cute ankle socks and shiny black patent shoes? These super sweet pink ankle socks have cushioned soles, so they’re a comfy way to start the week. View Post

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Some of the plants mentioned in this post were gifts from Tree2MyDoor

I bloody love houseplants. Some women have shoes, I have houseplants. I just did a little count around the house and I currently have 42, about a third of which I’ve cultivated from cuttings, which I feel rather smug about. I have everything from tiny pilea babies, newly separated from their mummy, to huge Swiss cheese plants, the largest of which is currently sat in my old cat litter tray (litter removed) until I find a pot big enough for it.

My oldest houseplant is a peace lily that I bought when Bee was small and we lived alone for the first time, making it about 23 years old now and I even got an avocado stone to sprout recently in a jar of water after about four years of trying. NEWSFLASH.

My two newest additions were gifts from a lovely company called Tree2MyDoor – a fiddle leaf fig tree and a pineapple plant. And when I say pineapple plant, I mean it has an actual pineapple growing out of the top. (Ornamental not edible.) I’ve never seen one before but it’s AMAZING. Love love love the pineapple plant.

pineapple plant

Tree2MyDoor specialises in outdoor plants really, but has expanded recently to include indoor plants too. Their thing is plants as gifts – rather than sending someone a bouquet of cut flowers for a birthday or special occasion, only to have them die in a couple of weeks, (the flowers not the friend hopefully), send a tree or a rose bush or a houseplant instead and you’re got the gift that keeps on giving AND growing. It’s such a lovely idea and way better for the planet than a huge bunch of plastic wrapped cuts flowers.

While not everyone loves houseplants quite as much as me, (I had a boyfriend once who threatened to throw them out the window if I grew any more spider babies), houseplants are more than just pretty accessories for your next Instagram shot. Houseplants have all kinds of important health benefits, meaning that really it’s your DUTY to buy a houseplant. It’s basically self-care. Best go to Tree2MyDoor right now and tell them I sent you.

In case you’re thinking ‘what is this crazy plant lady blabbering about? How on earth are houseplants good for you?’ then READ ON. View Post

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I was the ripe old age of 38 before I bought my first house. I’d put it off for a long time, partly because I didn’t think I could afford it, (I was right on that one for quite some time), but also through fear.

Growing up we mainly lived in rented houses, and so I’d never really had any experience of how owning a home worked. ‘Call the landlord’ was all I knew as a response to any kind of house related problem, and the focus was always on not staining the carpets or doing anything that might mean not getting your deposit back, rather than actually thinking about designing and creating a space that you wanted to live in.

House design

I would absolutely love a breakfast bar, but my kitchen is pretty small and I don’t think I’d be able to achieve it without blocking off the back door, which would leave the cats VERY confused.

When I thought of owning my own home, I just thought ‘trouble’. How would I know what to do? What if something went wrong? Could I just put a satsuma in front of any problems, like I did with that car, and hope they went away?

It turns out that owning your own home is far less scary than I thought, that you can get insurance to cover you for lots of different emergencies, and that things feel easier if you can find yourself a decent ‘no job too big or too small’ type maintenance person. (I have a lovely chap in the next street who has so far fixed my leaky roof AND put up a blind for me.)

Although I’ve been relatively lucky so far with my house, touch wood, (apart from the leaky roof), I would probably have benefited from a little more planning when it came to choosing my first home. I basically just came in and thought ‘this seems fine’ and made an offer. I didn’t know what I should be checking, I just saw that there were coloured LED lights around the bottom of the kitchen units and I got over-excited. View Post

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Can you believe I’ve been in my new house for over two years? It’s weird – it’s one of those things that hardly feels like any time at all, and yet I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

When we moved in I spray painted my bed pink in an act of newly single rebellion, and then I had the wardrobes built, but apart from that I’ve done very little to my bedroom. (Can you imagine if I had had to share the wardrobes? What a nightmare. It was almost worth breaking up just for that.) For ages my bedroom has been basically like a cheap hotel room – a bed, the wardrobe and a couple of bedside tables, and that’s it.

For quite a while I didn’t even have curtains, which added a fun, extra dimension to getting dressed, but then I got the new blind and it started to feel a bit more like a space I wanted to enjoy being in, rather than just somewhere to go to sleep.

The next step then was pictures.

I always say that plants and pictures are what make a house into a home, and yet for the last two years the only picture I’ve had in my bedroom has been a black and white photograph of the inside of an abandoned factory. I love the photo, but it’s not exactly bedroom vibes. It doesn’t scream sexy.

What I needed was some kind of lovely collage of beautiful images that made me feel uplifted and inspired and like I might at any moment fly to Venice or stand in a field of wheat with my hands in the air. You know the kind of thing.

Enter Desenio.

Desenio sells a massive range of primarily Scandinavian inspired prints, posters and frames, some from well-known artists and photographers and other designed exclusively for Desenio.

Desenio is really big on gallery walls, so they have loads of collections of pictures put together on different themes if you want to choose and customise something that’s been curated for you, or they have a brilliant tool to help you create your own gallery wall, where you can pick your favourite prints and frames and see how they look in different combinations.

You even get to choose the background colour so you can see how it would look in your room. It’s a really useful tool.

I spent a loooooong time choosing my pictures and in the end I took a couple of different routes. On the wall above my bed I picked out a couple of text based prints – one to replace the abandoned factory photo and one to create a cute mini scene above one of my bedside tables. I will say here that I’m not a fan as a rule of motivational quotes – the whole ‘dance like no one’s watching’ thing – but I can be swayed by a sassy affirmation.

Desenio prints quotes View Post

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