Belle is currently in the middle of her GCSE exams. They started around mid-May and her last one is on June 19th. There seem to be a LOT of them.

Her revision programme has gone something like this:

  • English literature: watching a rap about Macbeth on YouTube in the car on the way to school
  • English language: me saying ‘don’t forget to use your wow words’
  • Music: eating some pulled pork and watching Vampire Diaries

Now I know school has changed a lot since I went, but to me this doesn’t feel like your classic exam revision strategy.

But what am I meant to do about it?

How to make teenagers revise

Photo by Lacie Slezak on Unsplash

I guess the question probably isn’t ‘should I make my teenager revise for exams?’ and more ‘HOW do I make my teenager revise for exams?’ View Post

Yesterday was Belle’s last day of secondary school.

It’s weird, because although we’ve been counting down to this moment for literally years (‘I know you hate it, but only two and a half years left!’ ‘Just 27 more weeks Belle, you can do it!), it has also flown by.

Belle was only seven when I started writing this blog. At that age she was easily impressed with life. I remember writing this post in my first six months of blogging about her getting excited by the fact that bread sometimes comes pre-sliced.

Looking back through old posts I also found this picture of her first day of secondary school, nearly five years ago:

First day of school

(The post wasn’t about school itself, more me complaining about getting back to work after the summer, but this is MY blog remember. Belle needs to write her own if she wants it all to be about her.)

And now here she is, nearly 16 years old, with almost half of her GCSE exams done and dusted.

I can’t believe how much she has changed. And how much better my photos are. (We took this one when we did our own mini photoshoot in Bristol, which you can see here if you want to check out how tall she has got.)

Also, I wonder if I will ever get this jumper back? Probably not.  View Post

In association with Smart Home Week

Smart Home Week

According to research for Smart Home Week, (which is this week), nearly a third of homes now have at least one smart technology.

Are you one of them?

To be honest I was surprised it wasn’t higher, as I’ve been feeling a little bit left behind lately, like everyone had a Google Assistant or a smart lightbulb apart from me. I would make lists in silence on scraps of paper with a pencil I found on top of the fridge and feel like a right chump.

Not any more though. Now I have so much smart home technology that I suspect my various devices could potentially team up and beat me in a game of Trivial Pursuit.

The research also highlighted however that 47% of us find smart technology overwhelming and honestly, I feel your pain. When these smart home products started arriving for me to test, I was SCARED. I would open the boxes and stare at the cables and feel a genuine sense of utter bemusement. I wrote a little bit about it here.

What I quickly discovered though is that the whole thing is really not as scary at it first seems. In fact, the beauty of smart technology is just that – it’s SMART. Often it’s just a case of switching something on and letting it set up ITSELF, but in every case instructions were simple, clear and intuitive.

To help you feel more comfortable with things and to encourage you to think about adding some smart technology to your home, I’m going to give you a quick run down of the seven new products that we’ve added to our home this month. Each is just an overview as they can all do loads of fancy stuff, but if you have any specific questions about set up or how they work then please leave a comment and I will do my best to help.

Okay, here goes…

Ring video doorbell

I’m going to start with this one as this is something that Belle has wanted for a LONG time. I’m not sure what it is about it, I think it reminds her of the good old days when she used to watch MI HIGH and spend her pocket money on spy glasses to help you see behind yourself.

I feel like all of the smart home technologies have this element of ‘I’m a spy’ about them, (because I am old), but the Ring video doorbell is probably the product for me that most solves an actual problem. Where everything else is really fun or useful or saves me time or money, the Ring doorbell means I no longer have to worry about missing parcels while I’m at work. I can literally answer the door from my desk, via my phone. We also have ours connected to a Ring Chime Pro, which can tell you when someone has rung your bell as well as when motion has been detected.

The postman was a bit confused the first time I spoke to him seemingly from nowhere, but I think he liked it. ‘Just leave the parcel behind the bin at the side of the house please!’

‘Okay,’ he said, ‘but don’t forget!’

He knows me so well. View Post

In association with Smart Home Week

Smart Home Week

Today is the first day of Smart Home Week.

It’s going to be a fun week for me as I’m teaming up with Smart Home Week to showcase some of the latest smart tech for your home. Over the last few weeks I’ve been installing various gadgets, chatting to my postman via video doorbell and even rewiring a thermostat (a bit scary but made me feel super powerful) so that I can explain how various things work, how simple (or not) they are to use, and how they can benefit your home.

I bought my first ever house last year, so the project was well timed for me. It has made me feel very grown up, like I am taking charge and creating a home that works for us as a family.

That’s not to say I didn’t have doubts at first. I am the woman who gets confused by TV remote controls remember?

This time last month my idea of running a ‘smart home’ would have been remembering to lock the front door before going to bed, so it’s fair to say I was slightly nervous at the prospect of filling my home with smart tech. Technology isn’t something that comes naturally to me, and I pictured myself sat on the floor next to my router, fist fulls of leads, lights blinking, sobbing quietly.

You’ll be pleased to hear it wasn’t quite like that, although I DID end up with a lot of leads and things plugged into my router.

Top tip: invest in one of those boxes where you can tidy away all your cables.

Most of the technology was actually incredibly easy to set up – much of it had a step by step process through its app, telling you exactly what to do ant every stage. The great thing about it being SMART technology is that it pretty much knows how to set ITSELF up. You just plug it in and off it goes. View Post

In association with Bosch

So, the Bosch Unlimited cordless vacuum cleaner.

Now here’s the deal. I do already have a different cordless vacuum, and I love it. It’s so handy to be able to just grab it from the cupboard when I need to do I quick job on the cat litter that Camille kicks all over the kitchen floor, and I know the cleaner likes being able to wheel it around the house with her without constantly plugging and unplugging.

HOWEVER.

The battery life is not great. I have to remember to add a fully charged battery before the cleaner comes on Monday, and she always uses it up before she finishes the house. The individual batteries take ages to charge, so I always feel like I’m playing a game of vacuum cleaner battery roulette.

(I don’t get out much, so I have to get my thrills where I can.)

The Bosch Unlimited vacuum is different.

Bosch Unlimited review

The new cordless Bosch Unlimited vacuum comes with interchangeable batteries. Nothing new you might think, and you’d be right. The cool thing about the Bosch Unlimited though is that the batteries charge more quickly that you can use them, effectively giving you an infinite run time. 

Oooooh! View Post

I’ve been having a bit of a general muse today about fear and the impact it has on our lives. I think it was brought on by going to London this week to go on a filmed date with a Spanish man I’d never met before called Marco, where I had to speak in Spanish after only learning it for three weeks.

(More on that another time.)

It occurred to me that it’s probably the sort of thing that a lot of people would be too afraid to do.

Would you go on a date with a stranger in another language in front of a film crew? Are there other things that you don’t do because you’re afraid to? And most importantly, what is it that you’re really afraid of?

About four years ago, when I went through that break up that made me really sad, I read a lot of books about fear. The sadness I felt at the time had this permanent edge of fear to it that I couldn’t seem to shift and the longer it went on the more scared I became because I didn’t know how to make it go away and couldn’t see how I was going to cope with it.

One of the books I read was Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway. A lot of it felt a little bit cheesy, but the essence of it is simple – we aren’t actually afraid of feeling or events, were afraid of our inability to cope with them.

The three levels of fear

Susan Jeffers writes about there being three levels of fear. The first level is the incident itself – the ‘surface story’ – and the second is how it makes us feel – the ‘generalised fear’. For instance, we might say that we’re afraid to go on a date in Spanish, which would be the top layer. Dig a bit deeper and we might say that what we are really afraid of is messing up, of people laughing or of feeling embarrassed about the fact that all we can say is ‘tengo tres gatos’. View Post