There’s always so much to think about when it comes to giving gifts to small children at Christmas.

Will it make a mess?

Will it be noisy?

Will it be so horrendously annoying that next year the parents will give it back to me in the same wrapping paper so I can see how it feels to live with it?

‘But I wanted to introduce them to the joy of music…’

But what if some of the gifts we give without a second thought could actually be hurting our children if used incorrectly? What if a certain toy could in fact have the ability to permanently damage a child’s eyesight?

*scary music* View Post

In association with EDF Energy

Back in May, I tested out all kinds of cool gadgets as part of Smart Homes Week. One of my absolute favourites was the Philips Hue lighting system.

Ever since I was a teenager and was SUPER COOL, I’ve been a fan of coloured lightbulbs. Back then though, changing the colour in your bedroom meant a trip to B&Q to pick out a different coloured bulb, and then taking it home again to switch with your regular bulb. It wasn’t exactly a slick process. Then of course there was that incident in my early twenties, where I had someone knock on the door in the middle of the night thinking I was running a brothel, but we can skip over that.

Imagine if you could go back to the early 1990s and show teenage me the Philips Hue wireless lightbulbs. For a start I would have no idea how they could even work, because I wouldn’t know what the internet was, but if I could put that to one side and look at the colour changing bulbs in action, my mind would be BLOWN.

How is this possible? From a PHONE??

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In association with Coca-Cola Great Britain

Here’s a quick quiz for you – answer yes or no to the following questions and then check your score.

In the past month, have you:

  • Eaten a mince pie?
  • Had a glass of sherry?
  • Hummed a Christmas tune to yourself?
  • Pondered a Christmas wrapping scheme (everyone does this yes?)
  • Bought a Christmas-scented candle

If you answered YES to any of those questions then CONGRATULATIONS, you are ready to start the festive season! If you answered YES to all five then CONGRATULATIONS, you are me!

I absolutely love the run up to Christmas – the twinkly lights, shopping for presents, the smell of my winter-scented candles – I love it all. The trouble with Christmas though, and wanting to do all of the Christmas things, is that it can cost A LOT – both in financial terms and environmentally. The joy is sapped out of Christmas a little bit if afterwards all you have is a massive credit card bill and a mountain of plastic packaging.

As regular readers will know, I’ve been working with Coca-Cola GB over the last few months to help raise awareness of their sustainability initiatives. With Christmas fast approaching, they’ve challenged me to create a festive family-on-a-budget guide so that you can enjoy the Christmas season without it costing the earth. And, with Coca-Cola known for helping to bring the holidays to you, I’ve included a little suggestion from them at the end.

Visit a Christmas market

This is one of my favourite things to do to get myself feeling festive, and if you manage to resist the smell of mulling cider (good luck) then you don’t need to spend any money at all – just soak up the festive atmosphere. Town centre Christmas markets are normally outside, so you get to wrap up in hats and scarves and have a full-on winter experience, but if you’re less keen on the whole ‘cold cheeks for Christmas’ vibe then there are indoor options too.

You can find loads of round-ups of the best Christmas markets online to get you started – there are so many, you definitely won’t be short of options! Look out for local events in church or community halls, school Christmas fairs or events at things like National Trust properties and stately homes – there is so much going on, you’ll definitely find something nearby.

Bristol Christmas Market View Post

In association with AlchemLife

A very unusual thing happened to me recently.

It was a Wednesday during October, and we’d been up to Bristol to hang out with Bee for the afternoon. When we got home I started to feel IFFY. My sinuses were burning, my head hurt and my throat was scratchy.

‘Brilliant,’ I thought, ‘a cold.’ I looked in my diary to see what I had on for the next couple of weeks, knowing that whatever it was would have to be rescheduled when the inevitable hacking cough took root.

But here’s the unusual thing – it didn’t. No cough. My sinuses burnt for a good few days and I felt generally a bit rough, but still, no cough.

Anyone who knows me will know that this is a very strange occurrence indeed. For my whole life I’ve suffered with horrible coughs that last for weeks and push everyone around me to the point where they want to smother me with a pillow just to stop the coughing. Normally any kind of small cold will immediately burrow down into my chest, but not this time.

It might have something to do with the fact that the day after my sinus cold thing appeared, I had a parcel in the post from AlchemLife. Inside the parcel was a natural food supplement called PhytoRelief-CC.

how to prevent a cold PhytoRelief

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In association with Yale

Since the various product reviews I did for Smart Home Week this year I have been ALL OVER the gadgets. I’m all ‘Alexa, turn my bedroom light pink’ and ‘Alexa, turn my heating up to 22 degrees’. You can be cosy and warm without even having to so much as LEAN.

Smart home technology appeals to my inner lazybones and basically makes my life super easy.

The Yale Sync Smart Home Alarm, part of the range of Yale smart living products, ticks both of these boxes. As well as being disinclined to get up off the sofa unless it’s strictly necessary, I’m decidedly forgetful, and often find myself halfway into town wondering whether or not I’ve remembered to lock the front door/close the windows/put on pants etc.

With a Yale Sync Smart Home Alarm you can check up on yourself, via the Smart Home app, and control your home security wherever you are.

Yale Sync Smart Home Alarm review

Before we start getting into all the cool things it does though, let’s see exactly what you get with your Yale Sync Smart Home Alarm kit. Yes, that’s right! I’ve made an unboxing video! I watched a few beforehand and the main thing seems to be to point the camera right at the thing you’re unboxing and to talk in quite a boring voice. This seemed to come naturally to me, so I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before this video goes viral: View Post

I was in Starbucks this morning, having managed to drop Belle at college for the second lesson of the day at least, (better than nothing), and on the table next to me were two women talking about their daughters and school. It sounded like they were probably just a bit younger than Belle – probably 14 or 15.

‘I just can’t bear to see her so miserable,’ said one. ‘It’s so horrible, because realistically school is meant to be the best years of your life.’

IS IT??

I can totally feel her pain over having a child who doesn’t thrive at school. As soon as I heard them talking I was there, at 8am on a school day morning, trying to gently encourage a sobbing Belle out of bed. I empathised with her on that, but… on her second point, I had to hope that she wasn’t saying that to her daughter – how dispiriting would that be?

Talk to anyone is my family – my sister, my daughters – and I’m pretty sure they’d tell you that school was far from the best time of their life. Even for me, who took a disproportionate amount of pleasure from a good test mark, school was tolerable at best. I did well, but I didn’t have a lot of friends and my absence rate was high. I was bored to a level I’ve hardly ever experienced since, but trapped too. I was, like most teenagers I’m sure, acutely aware of everything I said and did, turning a beetroot red if anyone said anything at all to me that I hadn’t already planned in my head.

I liked aspects of it, but mainly I just found the whole thing excruciatingly embarrassing. No way would I want to do it again.

Outside of school I spent quite a lot of time imagining all the fun things that other people would be doing, the people who had big groups of friends and went to Bridgwater Lido every day of the summer holidays. I made 3D scale models of my bedroom so that I could experiment with rearranging the furniture and went to bed at 9pm while I was sure everyone else stayed up past midnight watching 18 certificate films.

What I didn’t appreciate at the time was that the cool kids, the ones who really did seem to be having the best years of their life, then had only one way to go – downhill. View Post