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Every family has a much repeated story about a wasp sting don’t they? Ours is from a family holiday about 15 years ago, probably Devon or Cornwall. It was one morning, mid-holiday and unbeknown to Bee a wasp was ‘resting’ in her trousers, which had been left on the floor. When she put them on the wasp stung her twice on the bottom.

She was not happy.

The rest of the day was spent not, as planned, enjoying a round of crazy golf and a Mr Whippy, but instead sitting about inside our holiday cottage while Bee lay prostrate on the sofa, bottom in the air.

If only Bite Away had been invented then!

Bite Away review

Although at first glance it looks like it might be a high-tech pregnancy test, Bite Away is actually a chemical free heat treatment for insect bites and stings. It works by applying concentrated heat to the affected area – 51 degrees of heat to be exact – for either three or six seconds depending on how sensitive a person/an area it is. View Post

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Have you had to cancel a summer holiday this year?

I have, and it’s not fun. I’ve pretty much stopped looking at my calendar at all because the days and days stretching ahead with nothing to look forward to are a bit much sometimes.

Perhaps you’re looking on the bright side – at least you won’t have to have to spend hours in the car with kids who apparently have bladders the size of actual peas, and you can save some money at least, including on all those extras like endless ice creams, all the overpriced cocktails you have to buy to make a holiday with kids bearable, and litres of sunscreen.

HOLD UP THOUGH. Not so fast.

Just because you’re not going on a summer holiday doesn’t mean you’re off the hook with the sun protection. I know it can feel like we don’t need it most of the time in the UK but that’s just not the case. More people in the UK are now killed by skin cancer than in Australia, and a scary 60% of us damaged our skin in the sun just last year. (Statistic from 2019 SunSense survey.)

That’s not cool is it? Especially when according the Cancer Research UK, 86% of melanoma skin cancers cases in the UK are preventable. Just by regularly using a high SPF 50+ sunscreen you can reduce your chances of developing the disease.

To help us all stay safe in the sun, we’ve been trying out the range of sunscreens from SunSense, an iconic Australian sunscreen brand that’s been a favourite with Australians for over 30 years.

SunSense sunscreen for kids

Those chubby little fingers!

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Hands up who’s bored of staying at home pretending that they’re living their best life making sourdough and enjoying the slower pace of life?

*waves hand wildly*

It’s getting kind of tedious isn’t it? I know, saving lives and all that, I’m not about to start an illegal rave, but I do miss full contact brunch. Still, it has to be done, and probably for a while yet, so in the meantime I’ve pulled together a load of things to do online that are fun and free. It’s not like the post I wrote the other day suggesting you learn a language or get a skip bag or anything, these are all purely for time wasting or purely joyous purposes.

PLUS…

Read to the end of this post, or skip there now if you’re really that fed up, and there’s the chance to win a £50 Amazon voucher! (I nearly included ‘evaluate your Amazon wish list’ as one of the items, but I assume that was the first thing EVERYONE did? It’s certainly something I’ve spent a lot of time on.)

Play board games online with friends

We’ve had a bash at playing some games with family via Zoom, but it can be a bit fiddly if you’re all trying to keep track of your own Monopoly board. Instead, try something like Tabletopia for board games that you can play virtually.

Go to the theatre

National Theatre is showing a full length play every week during lockdown via YouTube, and they’ve had some absolutely cracking stuff on so far. This week it’s Gillian Anderson in A Streetcar Named Desire. Now’s your chance to get all fancy and cultured – no one needs to know you saw them at home in your pyjamas.

Enter some competitions

Totally free and who knows, you could end up with a new car or even a year’s supply of Weetabix! The thrill of winning a competition is rarely proportionate to the prize in my experience – having the winning ticket in the village fete raffle is an absolute buzz, even if you do just win an Old Spice gift set.

If you’re not normally a comper, check out Competition Finder as a great starting place for finding and entering competitions.

Learn how to take a dramatic portrait shot of your pet

Dramatic pet portrait photography is just one of the many, many online courses available at Skill Share, amongst other treats such as ‘how to create the ultimate donut flat lay.’ Skill Share is a paid service, offering easy to follow lessons in all kinds of creative subjects, but there’s a decent free trial if you just fancy giving one or two things a go.

how to take a picture of your pet View Post

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Peacock wallpaper

Although summer is just around the corner, it looks like it will be a very different season from the one that we are used to. Many families will already be feeling the effects of lockdown, and this is going to get so much more intense when the weather heats up and the days get longer.

While there’s no shortage of celebrities with outlandish ideas for staying busy during the pandemic, for most of us, it’s going to be a constant battle with daytime TV, hyperactive children and the latest grim news reports from the outside world.

But before you throw the kids in front of endless loops of Hey Duggee, there are a few things that might just do the trick in surviving the summer months at home.

YouTube Channels for Staying Fit

We will all need to work twice as hard to stay in shape this summer. While the kids will always find their own ways of letting off steam, for us adults, it’s all too easy to get lethargic by settling down on the sofa.

Thankfully, there’s no shortage of excellent YouTube fitness channels that are ideally suited to helping the whole family fight the flab. In particular, Joe Wicks’ PE workout has proven to be hugely popular among kids and adults alike. While the first few sessions can be adamant, once you get into the swing of it, then you’ll find it much less painful.

We should also note that there are plenty of great video games that are designed to help you and the kids get more active. In particular, Just Dance and Wii Fit could prove to be excellent at keeping you in shape from the comfort of your living room.

Entertainment Basics: Video Games & Cards for Everyone

We all know that playing games is a great way to pass the time – now more than ever. And there’s a lot to choose from. Kids will love classic board games like Buckaroo, Kerplunk and Operation. Obviously, most people now game on a computer or video console. So, if this is the case, try and encourage your family to play those fun multiplayer games so that no one is left out. Nintendo’s Switch and Wii consoles are perfectly designed for multiplayer gaming, and there are many top titles like Super Mario Party, Animal Crossing and Overcooked that should be able to keep the little ones suitably entertained.

Adults, on the other hand, will probably prefer something a little more grown up. There are deals across many different gaming platforms, so you’ll definitely have a chance to save some money. We see a lot of promotions across various sectors in the entertainment industry. From sales on Sony PlayStation Store and free trials on Disney+ and Prime, to bonuses at iGaming brands – there are a wide range of deals customers can take advantage of. If you’re into casino games or you enjoy the occasional poker with your friends, there are sites where you can create lobbies and play using game money. Using a bonus for casino entertainment can come in handy if you’re eager to do a little exploring and see what different sites have to offer.

Cooking and Helping Around the Home

Of course, it can’t all just be fun and games this summer.  While there will be no shortage of household tasks, the trick is to try and get everyone involved. So don’t banish the children from the kitchen the next time that you have to make food, but see if you can get them to help out on some family-friendly recipes. Not only is it great fun, but it will help the little ones understand the importance of nutrition too.

Not all of us will be blessed with a big garden, but even something like helping to water the houseplants can be useful, and it will certainly fill up a few hours. Above all, it’s about getting everybody involved so that nobody’s feeling bored and restless. And once summer’s out the way, then hopefully school can come to the rescue!

ombre coloured planter

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My mum told me yesterday that she doesn’t think I know how to worry properly.

It was because I’d been telling her that one of my main worries about the coronavirus was zombies. Zombies or perhaps man-eating plants. ‘I don’t care how much toilet paper I have,’ I said, ‘the most stressful thing about going to the supermarket is getting out of the car and expecting to see the undead shuffle out of the trolley park.’

‘I absolutely promise you,’ she said, ‘that there will not be any zombies.’

‘That’s exactly what they say at this point in the books,’ I pointed out, in what felt like a completely reasonable way, ‘but then the virus mutates and suddenly your shrubs are trying to eat you in the night.’

‘I think perhaps that you’re not used to worrying,’ said my mum, ‘and that you’re not sure how to process it. I don’t think it’s really about zombies.’

She might be right.

Whereas my sister, in her own words, has been ‘prepping for this moment her whole life’, emotionally at least, (although they do also always have more than a normal amount of pasta at home), I have not. Anxiety has historically not been my ‘thing’ and I prefer to waft through life unconcerned by external events or health concerns. Over the last year or so though, maybe age, maybe the midlife unravelling, I’d already started to notice odd niggles about things taking root – a needless trip to the optician because my eyes ‘don’t feel right’ here, a cry over the pointlessness of life there. I’ve felt slightly off my game for a while and coronavirus feels like it could be the thing that tips me over the edge.

25 years of reading dystopian fiction has left me with an ingrained fear of things like viruses, over which we appear to have so little control. It feels scary to me because it’s unpredictable, it could be anywhere and because we don’t know how to kill it.

Just like zombies. View Post

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In the past I’ve had a pretty laissez-faire attitude to parenting.

It’s not that I don’t care, (she types carefully, just for the record), it’s more that my priority is for my children to do something that makes them happy and that they enjoy, rather than being one of those parents who forces their kids into ballet and violin lessons at age three and plays Mozart to the them in the womb.

If anything, you could say I have a tendency to be too hands off, and that the lack of discipline in my nature has left them sometimes feeling a bit at sea when it comes to having support with big life choices. Or maybe not, who knows – you’d have to ask them I guess.

You wouldn’t think though that, when it came to educational choices, I’d have a particularly strong opinion, so it’s always felt rather out of character for me that when Bee voiced a desire to do ‘BTEC Babies’ after she finished school, I was more than a little discouraging. (It wasn’t actually called BTEC Babies, we just call it that whenever Bee brings it up as an example of my failings as a parent, and it has kind of stuck.)

T Levels

Post-16 Bee thinking wistfully about what life might have been like if I’d let her do BTEC Babies

I’m ashamed to say that there was definitely an element of snobbery behind me telling her she’d be much better off doing A Levels. I could remember so clearly being that age and the stigma attached to BTECs – they were very much seen at the time, at least by my friends, as something you did if you weren’t clever enough to take the ‘proper’ academic route. I was also concerned that by not doing A Levels she’d be limiting herself in terms of what else she might be able to do. Essentially I didn’t see the value in a vocational qualification.

How wrong I was.

As university fees have soared, and the graduate job market becomes increasingly competitive, school leavers are looking for different routes into work, routes that let them continue their studies at the same time as getting useful, real world experience. While A Levels continue to be a popular choice, apprenticeships have staged an impressive comeback over recent years, with opportunities up to degree level, and attitudes towards technical qualifications generally have definitely shifted. Loads of the parents I speak to nowadays are encouraging their kids to think outside the A Level box and explore different options post-GCSEs.

One of these options is T Levels. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with HERPOtherm

About a month ago I had what might possibly have been the worst cold sore that any human being has ever had.

Okay, that’s a bit of and exaggeration, but it was definitely the worst cold sore that I’ve ever had. I don’t get them that often, and didn’t get any at all until I was in my 30s, but when they strike they go all out, guns blazing.

I do what I can, smearing them liberally with cold sore cream as soon as I feel the tingle, but they laugh in my face. Literally in my face, because that’s what so horrible about cold sores isn’t it? They are RIGHT THERE. You can’t escape from them, or hide them. It’s not like when you were a teenager – you can’t wear a casual white polo neck under your school shirt like you might to hide a dodgy love bite. (Hypothetically.)

Every single time you talk to someone your cold sore wiggles about, drawing attention to itself. Mine take so long to go away too because my tongue obsesses over them, poking and prodding even though I tell it not too. They’re horrible things and anything that could help to get rid of them quicker, or even stop them appearing at all, has got to be worth a try hasn’t it?

That’s why I agreed to write a post about HERPOthermView Post

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It’s 5.30pm on a Sunday evening and I’m in an old church in Bristol. Long ropes dangle from the ceiling as I stand, 6 feet above the ground, on a trapeze. I lean forward, one leg extended behind me. I crouch slowly and sit down on the bar. I lean back and let go with one hand, twisting my body, my legs stretched out straight, toes pointed.

In that moment I feel powerful, alive, and only vaguely concerned about how sweaty my palm feels on the rope. In my mind I look like this and in lieu of photographic evidence I defy anyone to prove otherwise:

Trapeze artist

Last week, in our first session of a five week aerial skills course, we were on the hoop. With the hoop I felt about as graceful as a badly coordinated toddler trying to zip up a coat. On the trapeze though, (once the instructor has helped me get on), I am a goddess, full of energy and grace.

Now I’m not saying that two weeks of drinking Ensure Max Protein everyday has turned me into a world class circus acrobat, ready to fly through the air, confident in my strength and power, but it has made me a little less tired, given me a little more energy, and that can’t be a bad thing, not when according to research*, around 10.5 million of us in the UK feel exhausted from our ‘always on’ lives.

I don’t know if it’s age, or the midlife unravelling or what it is really, but a lot lately, (the last couple of years if I’m honest), I’ve just felt pretty tired. Worn out with having to DO everything, by myself, all the time. Tired of being always responsible, generating all my own work, having to remember to reply to my Instagram messages and get the car MOTed and have Belle’s eyes tested and, and, and…

*deep breaths* View Post

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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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