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

Follow:

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

Follow:

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

Follow:

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

Follow:

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

Follow:

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

Follow:

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

Follow:

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

Follow:

Advertisement feature in association with LifeSearch

How much thought have you given to your digital legacy? If you were to die suddenly tomorrow, do you know what would happen to your email or your social media accounts? Does a loved one know your passwords? Would you want them to see all of your personal messages or would you prefer to have your social media accounts automatically deleted when you die?

What happens to your social media accounts when you die?

Like many things linked to death, it’s something that many of us are reluctant to talk about. We bury our heads in the sand, or figure that once we’re dead it won’t be our problem, but with more and more of us having a significant digital presence it’s not an issue you can afford to ignore, especially if you want your death to be as painless and hassle free as possible for your family.

A new study by the UK’s leading life insurance broker, LifeSearch, shows exactly how unprepared we are when it comes to our digital legacy. The study* showed that nearly a quarter of people would like to see automatic deletion of social media accounts on death, and that although more than 1 in 10 people are already worried about the fate of their online accounts, a whopping 92% haven’t prepared by telling loved ones their wishes for their digital presence after death.

I took my own little Twitter poll and it turned out to exactly replicate the findings of the LifeSearch research – most people hadn’t even considered their digital presence after death, and only 8% have a plan in place, meaning 92% don’t have anything solid for loved ones to go on when they die.

digital legacy

To try and help, LifeSearch has launched a campaign called Let’s Start Talking, which encourages the nation to be more open about the subjects that make us uncomfortable, including death, illness, money and mental health. It’s well worth a look if you want to have a difficult conversation but aren’t sure where to start. View Post

Follow:

I’m not sure that ‘leader’ is the right term to use here really. I don’t ‘lead’ by any stretch of the imagination – I’ve been volunteering at my local Brownie group for a term now and, thanks to my top notch memory, I still don’t even remember any of their namesThey don’t seem to have noticed though, and as long as I never have to take a register I think we’ll be okay.

Brownie helper? Is that better? That makes it sound like I might just be taking their coats – more of a concierge role. Let’s stick with leader. I do have a Brownie name after all. (Nightingale. Thank you.)

I know that I’ve joked about Brownies in the context of my midlife unravelling, and likened it to me almost auditioning for a role in the local production of Aladdin, but I actually love being a Brownie leader. When you’ve got used to living with teenagers, who aren’t exactly known generally for their zest for life, hanging out with a group of 7-10 year olds, who still get a thrill out of putting their hand up when they know the answer to something, is pretty uplifting.

They actually ENJOY STUFF! Like properly enjoy it, in a pure way, with a lack of self-consciousness that’s a lesson in itself.

This week we did circus skills and it was my favourite week so far. The session was led by circus man Steve, who was absolutely brilliant with them, and seeing them so engaged and interested was infectious. I found myself back in my primary school self, totally engrossed. My sole purpose became balancing that peacock feather on my finger so well that Steve noticed and praised me.

Benefits of being a Brownie leader

How I felt when I flipped a spinning plate in the air and caught it on a stick first time and Steve said I was wasted at Brownies and should join the circus.

View Post

Follow:

I had an email this weekend out of the blue from a woman looking for some advice. I was flattered, although slightly concerned on her behalf, that she had come to ME for advice. I don’t exactly have a great track record. She was interested in whether or not to tell dates about having children, and my experience of dating as a single parent.

I hope she won’t mind me quoting part of her email, as it’s anonymous:

‘I am a single parent with young children.’ she wrote. ‘The thought of dating again terrifies me and partly because I am afraid of being judged. Did you feel like you were judged when you went out on dates as a single mother? Did you find it awkward bringing it up especially when the man doesn’t have children? I’m going through all the ‘what ifs’ in my mind and frankly I sometimes feel like a failure.’

I wanted to share it because I’m sure it’s something a lot of single parents worry about and I thought it might be useful to think about it a bit.

should you tell dates about your children? View Post

Follow:

It occurred to me this week that it’s a long time since I got really cross with someone. Like REALLY cross, with shouting, and maybe swears.

It’s because the only people I tend to get angry with are boyfriends. I have a lovely family, who I never argue with, and my friends are friends for a reason – I like them and we get on. I’m not one of those people who thrives on having regular bust ups with people they’re meant to care about. It’s just not me.

As far as I can think, it must be about two years now since I’ve had a proper row with someone. Maybe two years since I shouted? That’s a long time isn’t it?

I kind of miss it.

how often do you shout

View Post

Follow: