Advertisement feature in association with Bosch

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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Advertisement feature in association with Local Heroes

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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This is the first September in 37 years when I haven’t done ‘back to school’.

That’s bonkers isn’t it?? 37 years!

I was still at college when Bee was born, and she had started school by the time I finished my degree, so it’s been genuinely 37 years of either me or one of my children being in full time education.

Donkey Sanctuary

No special relevance to this picture of Bee and Belle, I just love it. ‘Welcome to this special documentary about donkeys, over to you Bee.’

Last year was a little different as it was Belle starting college rather than going back to school, but it was the same rituals, the same slow build of anxiety and worries about outfits and timetables and friendships.

Belle has decided college isn’t really her jam, which is totally fine, it’s not for everyone, but it means that my life, for the first time since I was four years old, isn’t held in place by the academic year. The day doesn’t flow from 9am to 3pm, there are no regular school holidays to dread and look forward to in equal measure, it’s just this now. Forever I guess.

It’s kind of scary. View Post

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Collaboration with Just Landlords

Do you have Britain’s most beautiful garden? This post is my entry into the competition from Just Landlords to find the most beautiful garden in the Britain. The winner will receive a £250 Love2Shop voucher. Find out how to enter here.

We don’t live in a big house. It’s two rooms downstairs, one bathroom and two and a half bedrooms. It feels spacious because it has huge windows and I try not to fill it full of clutter, but it’s essentially NOT BIG.

There are only two of us of course, plus cats, so it’s not a massive deal, but sometimes, when Belle is into her fourth episode of *insert some random Netflix series here* in the living room, I want somewhere to BE that isn’t sat on my bed like a despondent teenager.

My garden is that place.

Luckily for me, Belle isn’t keen on ‘outside’ as a concept, and so the garden is the place that’s totally mine. Even in my bedroom I can’t be sure that she won’t be hiding under the bed to grab my ankles in some kind of hilarious (for her) prank, but the garden… I’m safe there. The garden is the place I can go to be by myself.

What’s extra special to me about my garden is that when I bought my house two years ago, it was essentially a gravelled prison yard. I mean literally nothing, just a square of fenced in misery, complete with spider nests, one random patio slab, and patches of pink where I had taken advantage of the space to spray paint my bed after a break up.

It was not a thing of beauty.

(The bed is though.)

garden makeover tips

It’s wasn’t exactly the kind of place you wanted to escape to. More escape from. Possibly by tunnelling, or bribing a guard for a length of rope.

One of the things I love most then about my garden, is the transformation. Transformation of any kind gives us hope doesn’t it? It’s why we love before and after pictures so much – we want to know that anything is possible, even if we never get round to it. The idea of it is comforting.

Once the basic landscaping had been done, the garden was a bit of a blank canvas. I wondered for a while how on earth I would make it look like an actual garden. How did you make things grow? I wasn’t sure.

garden makeover View Post

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Taunton (where I live) has a toad trail going on at the moment. It’s one of those things that’s meant to get kids excited about being outdoors and walking further than the toy shop to McDonald’s. There’s a trail map, an app and colourful painted toads dotted in and around Taunton.

(I just had a look at the website to find out exactly how many toads, and it says ‘over 22’, which seems weird to me. ‘Over 20’ maybe, but ‘over 22’? What does that mean? Are there 23?)

We lived in Bristol when the original Gromit trail took place and honestly, we got a bit obsessed with it. I say ‘we’, but I don’t remember Bee being exactly cock-a-hoop about it. Bee is adamant though that in a picture we have of her with a ball, not even two years old, (which I can’t find), she was thinking to herself ‘this is boring, I wonder when I’m allowed to stop?’ I told her she seemed to be enjoying it at the time but she says she was just pretending because that’s what she thought she was meant to like.

Belle got on board with the Gromits though, and we found all 80, although on reflection she may have been humouring me. She even let me have fridge magnets made of the photos.

Where am I going with this? Oh yes. At the time, wandering all over Bristol, following a map and looking for giant dog statues, I thought I was doing it for the kids. Ditto years of crazy golf, murder mystery trailers, organising stationery drawers, watching animated films at the cinema, that sort of thing. Oh the sacrifices I made! So selfless! Of course I’d have rather been at the opera or reading the news or whatever it is grown ups like to do.

Only it turns out it’s not true.

Turns out IT WAS ME ALL ALONG.

‘Do you want to see if we can find all the toads?’ I keep asking Belle. I want her to ask me how many there are so that I can say ‘over 22’ but she has yet to show that level of interest.

‘No,’ is always the disappointing answer, which makes me sad because IS a 41 year old woman allowed to look for giant painted toads on her own??

Taunton toad trail View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with hotukdeals

A few years ago now, back when I lived in Bristol, I had a boyfriend who was obsessed with hotukdeals.

I don’t just mean that he would check the site for offers before he bought something significant, I mean that he loved browsing, scrolling through the listings, just for fun. ‘Someone’s just found a half price patio set in an Asda in Doncaster!’ he would shout out, excitedly. It makes you wonder really how engaging I was as a girlfriend, but let’s brush over that.

He actually saved us a lot of money over the few years we lived together – or should I say hotukdeals did, because the beauty of the site is that you don’t actually do any of the research yourself, you just wait for other people to find the bargains, post about them, and then you swoop. Hotukdeals is a place for real consumers to share their stories, deals, vouchers. and tips. The purpose of the site is to encourage honest advice from genuine consumers, getting insight from other real people about hot deals and products.

There’s also an app, which is totally free and allows for on the go bargain hunting. You can also use the app to set keyword alerts, so if, for example, you’re after some LEGO for Christmas presents, you can get a notification as soon as a LEGO offer gets posted. I actually did a little project with them a couple of years ago, where I saved £527 on my Christmas shopping, so coupled with my obsessive boyfriend history I consider myself something of an expert.

When hotukdeals asked me then if I fancied using the site to discover some bargains for a garden makeover, I was PRIMED, ready to strike while the deal was hot. (Or, as it turned out in my case, while the half price barbecue was hot.) They’ve also given me two £50 vouchers to give away, so read on for more info on how to win those too.

My garden is one of my favourite bits of the house because it’s the area where I have made the most difference. The rest of the house was already redecorated and ready to go, but the garden was like a prison yard. I did a whole garden makeover post, complete with kitten in a wheelbarrow, if you want to check it out, and I’ve added a lot of plants along the way too. (It’s worth noting too that the plants from that second post are doing really well a year on – I’ve been really impressed with them.)

HotUKDeals garden offers

So I set about searching the garden section of hotukdeals for some garden bargains that would add to the tropical paradiseness of my garden.* View Post

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Gifted product

Is there anything better in the whole wide world than a good cup of tea?

Okay, so winning the lottery or marrying the love of your life or getting stranded on a desert island full of cats or something, but APART from those things… Is there anything better than a cup of tea?

Win tea competition

And before you say anything, yes, my milk jug is very cool, thank you. It’s part of my collection of ‘milk jugs in the shape of chickens where the milk comes out of their beaks’. It’s fun because it looks like the chicken is throwing up in your drink. It’s a fairly niche collection, but I like a challenge.

The tea that my chicken was ‘helping’ with today was a rather lovely earl grey from Blue Tea Box. I was excited to try them because their coffee – Blue Coffee Box – is my favourite coffee of all time, not even an exaggeration. The tea is a new strand to the business, offering rare and single-origin teas, ethically sourced from across the globe by specialist tea merchants.

Blue Tea Box works on a subscription model and you can choose either one large bag or three smaller bags delivered to your door every month, either for yourself or as a gift. Tell Blue Tea Box what kind of tea you normally like and your tea concierge selects your perfect teas. Fancy!

Your tea comes beautifully packaged in a letterbox friendly box and includes information abut the teas and tasting notes. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with the ŠKODA Parent Taxi App

Earlier this week I introduced the ŠKODA Parent Taxi App. You remember? It had that video in it, of me trying to look super casual and cool behind the wheel? Go back and have a read if you’ve forgotten.

Basically it’s an app, created by ŠKODA, that allows you to track your journeys using GPS and ‘charge’ your kids in chores for driving them around. ŠKODA loaned us a car for a couple of weeks, (which was an absolute joy to drive – I love a ŠKODA), and we put the app to the test.

Skoda Parent Taxi App

Now I COULD just talk here about how annoying it is as a parent to have to drive your kids around to meet their friends or go to hockey practice or whatever, and how the app teaches them the value of time and money, but actually our relationship with our car is a bit more complex than this. I thought this might be interesting to explore, as I suspect that for most people, parenting a teenager isn’t quite as simple as you may have been led to believe.

(That sounds a bit ominous doesn’t it? I feel like this post has the potential to get very deep very quickly.) View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with ŠKODA

Do you ever feel like your kids treat you as something of a taxi service? Do you ever wish you actually had a meter installed, so you could at least be earning a bit of extra cash while you drove them around?

That would be cool wouldn’t it?

‘No problem love,’ I’d say to Belle in a cockney accent, ‘I can drive you to dance – it’ll cost you six paaaand.’ (That’s me doing the accent.)

Of course it would never work – teenagers notoriously have no money because they spend it all on frappuccinos and make-up palettes. What they DO have though is TIME (when they’re not watching important videos on Tik-Tok and practicing make-up looks) and ENERGY (if you catch them after a frappuccino.)

And when you have a taxi fare to pay, TIME + ENERGY = CHORES.

That’s the theory behind the ŠKODA Parent Taxi App – start the meter running when you set off, and depending on how far you travel, and how generous you are with the settings, your time and trouble gets repaid to you in the form of chores completed by your grateful teen.

Skoda Parent Taxi App

Skoda Parent Taxi App review

Sounds like a good idea doesn’t it?

A little while ago, ŠKODA invited me and Belle to have a play with the app, and put together a short video of us where I drive about and try to look young and cool and Belle tolerates me. It’s less than a minute and gives you a good overview of what the ŠKODA Parent Taxi App involves: View Post

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