I was lighting some incense this morning, (to try to cover up the smell of the bin), and I after I had blown out the match I put it back into the box. I do this deliberately because an ex-boyfriend used to absolute hate it.

It got me thinking about all of the other things I make a point of doing now that I am single partly just because I can, but also partly on purpose because at some point or other in my life I’ve had someone tell me not to.

‘Is this something NORMAL people do?’ I wondered.

I suspect it is.

(I hope it is.)

I don’t even think it’s malicious. As I’m doing it I’m not seething with unspent rage and bitterness, if anything it’s more celebratory. I’ve had a selection of partners who have been lovely people in lots of ways, but who have also had their fair share of ‘quirks’. let’s say that, and between them they have, quite naturally I would think, changed some of my behaviours, even if it’s just small things.

When you find yourself on your own again it can be quite liberating to not have to think about how the stuff you do might irritate or upset another person. You can often feel quite a sense of freedom.

good things about being single View Post

Post in association with Coca-Cola Great Britain

Belle has been on her summer holidays now for ooh, I don’t know, about two years?

It feels like it anyway.

She had her last GCSE exam on the 19th of June and since then she’s been at home, mainly asleep, or at least during the hours that I’m awake. Either that or she’s watching TV or playing on her phone.

Part of me knows that it’s been a tough year or so for her, and if she wants to lie about doing not much for a couple of months then it’s probably fine. The other part of me does try to get her to think of other things to do sometimes, and encourage her to perhaps even leave the house occasionally.

(After spending an hour in the garden making the cat tubs below her skin was so shocked that she came out in loads of freckles the next day!!)

When she was younger Belle loved crafts, (remember the wall mounted make-up brush station we made out of old jam jars?), and if you catch her in the right mood and call it a ‘life hack’ she’s still quite keen. The last year of school has definitely been a drain on her emotionally and I wanted to come up with some activities that might kick-start her creativity.

As the second part of our project with Coca-Cola Great Britain, which is all about keeping plastic off the streets and out of the oceans by making recycling creative and fun for families, I thought I’d get Belle to have a go at some plastic bottle upcycling activities. We recently took part in a beach clean, which was meant to get us both thinking more about the consequences of not taking care of our waste, so this challenge was about putting those empty bottles to better use.

Coca-Cola is always looking for new ways to encourage people to recycle more plastic bottles, but that doesn’t necessarily have to mean just bunging them in your recycling boxes – it could be turning them into something new at home. When you re-purpose your old plastic bottles you can do your bit for the planet and have a bit of cheap family fun at the same time. Winner winner chicken dinner.

We did some research online and had a go at four cool plastic bottle upcycling ideas – four fun ways to use your empty plastic bottles that are particularly suited to teenagers. (Belle made all of these projects herself.) Hopefully this will give you the inspiration you need to think about those empty plastic bottles in a new way, and have some fun together over the summer as a family.

Kitty cat storage pots

You may not have picked it up from the hundreds of posts on my social media accounts about my cats, but I have a bit of a soft spot for kitties. When I saw some pictures online of plastic bottles that had been turned into cute little cat tubs, well, it was meant to be.

plastic bottle cat tubs View Post

Okay, so not yet, but you can pre-order it from Amazon as of right now, which totally counts.

Now I know they say you should never judge a book by its cover but at the moment that’s all I can show you, so you’ll just have to. Here it is. Judge away:

Playgroups and prosecco book

Note MY NAME on the front, casually next to that little penguin.

*humble brag*

The title definitely isn’t an excuse for me to drink prosecco every time I mention it or do a book signing or interview or anything like that. (Do you think I will get to do book signings and interviews? That would be cool.)

I’d like to say that it has always been a burning ambition to write a novel and that this is the result of years of hard work, but that would be only half true. The hard work bit maybe, as without having put all this effort into my blog the publishers would never have found me, but aside from that thing I wrote about the camel, I’ve not really ever written fiction. View Post

In association with Unite Students

I never had the opportunity to GO to university in the traditional sense.

I mean sure, I WENT – I got the degree and everything – but I already had a two year old, (teenage pregnancy and all that), so I didn’t ever do that whole ‘pack all your belongings into the back of a Nissan Micra and spend three years living in a shared house on pizza and cheap beer’ thing. I did share a house, technically, but it was with Bee, and she was too small to drink beer and we didn’t have enough money for takeaway.

From day one then, my ‘university essentials’ have been ‘an entire small two bedroom house full of things you need for a family.’

I got on with it though, it was all good.

What it does mean though, is that I had to put a little extra thought into helping Bee to make that leap from home to university, as I knew that I hadn’t had the typical experience myself and so wasn’t sure entirely what she should expect. With Belle too, if she decides that’s what she wants to do, it’s going to be a massive step, especially given how difficult she has found school over the last couple of years.

She wouldn’t be alone in feeling anxious about it though.

According to a report from Unite, 61% of students feel anxious about making the leap from school to university and only 9% –  less than one in ten – say it closely matched their expectations. This could be a good or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it, but either way we’re clearly not prepared.

The worry is perhaps not surprising given the apparent lack of information and advice from parents – 77% of 16-19 year olds heading off to university said they hadn’t been given advice on sex or mental health, 72% hadn’t had advice about relationships and 66% were in the dark about drugs.

I find that pretty shocking, don’t you?

I’m not saying I would do a big sit down ‘this is what you need to know’ type talk before they packed up the Micra, but they’re such important topics, surely they’re an ongoing conversation with young people, whether or not they go to university?

We do seem to do a bit better on the practical side.

66% of 16-19 say they’ve been given advice on things like cooking and money management, although even then, that’s a third of students going in with nothing? Throw in stats like 55% of parents not thinking their child will be able to cook a meal from scratch, and you can’t help but wonder if there is room for improvement here.

Would you feel confident in your teenager’s basic cooking skills? Could they whip up something more impressive that a massive bowl of cereal?

As a bit of an experiment, I thought it might be fun to test out just how prepared Belle might be on a practical level by gathering a few university essentials. View Post

Post in association with Aquaclean

I think this could actually be the highest value item I’ve ever given away in a competition? Fancy.

Let’s take a look at the prize shall we, get ourselves in the mood. Here it is, the John Lewis Barbican 2 seater sofa in apple:

John Lewis Barbican Sofa in Apple

It looks pretty comfy doesn’t it? You just LOOK at it and you want a sit down.

I feel like if this was your sofa, your life would be full of family barbecues, weekend papers, succulents and Aperol spritz. An adorable toddler with blond pigtails would run at you and clamber up on your lap with a copy of The Gruffalo for you to read. You’d ask Alexa to turn down the acoustic folk music you were listening to and to switch on the reading lamp.

Your partner would come into the room and you and the toddler would both look up expectantly.

‘I was thinking of cooking a big curry and inviting Dan and Emily over,’ they’d say, ‘and can I top up your prosecco while I’m here?’

I’ve no idea who Dan and Emily are but I think they’d bring a bottle of artisinal gin that they’d picked up at a food festival recently and thought you might like. View Post

I’ve got a lot of time for Barry M.

I’m not massively into make-up personally, but when I do wear it I want something fun and colourful, especially on my nails. Barry M nail varnishes are WAY more exciting than a lot of make-up brands, with loads of different colours and finishes. How cool are these Under The Sea nail varnishes? I wore one of these when I went to visit that aquarium in Boulogne, just to get into the spirit of things.

Barry M Under the sea nail varnish

Belle is HUGELY into make-up and she loves creating new looks and experimenting with different products. British company Barry M is perfect for her as it’s good quality but affordable, meaning her she can add new things to her collection without bankrupting me.

Also, fun fact: Did you know that all Barry M products are cruelty free? None of their finished products or individual ingredients have been tested on animals since the company began back in 1982. Most Barry M products are also suitable for vegans. Vegan friendly products all have a green ‘vegan’ symbol on the ingredients page so you can be sure. View Post