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

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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

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Bee did a tweet the other day. I mean she does lots of tweets on lots of days, but this one got more likes than I can remember ANYTHING I’ve ever said getting. Not that I’m jealous or anything, it’s sound advice, but then I would hope so because it’s basically been my approach to parenting for 23 years now.

https://twitter.com/teachezbee/status/1051466541827538944

Bee: ‘Mum, I don’t feel very well…’

Me: ‘You’re probably thirsty – have a glass of water!’

Bee: ‘I just had a glass of water though?’

Me: ‘Get some fresh air!’

You get the gist.

As I have clearly done an excellent job of bringing up Bee, to the point where she can get 366 likes on a tweet, (absolutely how you measure parenting success), then I thought I would blatantly rip her off in return by doing my very own list of things that you definitely won’t regret doing.

Taking Bee’s list as a given, here are 11 other things you should do that I promise you won’t regret:

Tidy out a drawer

Do you have a drawer in your house that makes you sigh and feel bad about yourself every time you open it to look for a battery or a Calpol dispenser? Tackle that drawer today and I guarantee you’ll feel better about yourself afterwards. You will probably start casually asking small children if they have a headache, just so you have an excuse to open the drawer and feel smug.

(I’m starting you off with a drawer to keep things manageable as if you go straight in with an under stairs cupboard then you WILL feel deep regret when you are at the point where you’ve taken everything out but haven’t organised it back in again.)

Use sunscreen

Dur.

Eat a piece of fruit

Ergh, who wants an apple when there are party rings in the world? Eat it though, even if you don’t really want it. You can still have a party ring afterwards if you want, that’s just called BALANCE.

homemade party rings

I MADE these. Get me.

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In association with wilko

Belle has changed a lot over the years, particularly the last couple, but one of the things that hasn’t changed is her love of Halloween. I don’t know what it is about it, but she loves it. At the beginning of October she changed her phone background to pumpkins and told me to watch out because it was ‘spooky season’.

Ever since she was small Belle has loved dressing up for Halloween and over the years we’ve hosted Halloween parties, bobbed dozens of apples and even made our own trick or treat balloons. Last year Belle and her friends hosted a Halloween party at school for the younger kids and one year she won a Halloween fancy dress competition at a holiday park we were staying at, dressed as a ‘cereal killer’. She’d collected empty cereal boxes for weeks in advance and was VERY proud of herself. (You can see the costume here.)

Safe to say then, Belle has always loved Halloween.

Halloween at wilko

I make the point to give you an idea of how excited Belle was when wilko got in touch to ask us to have some fun trick or treating with their Halloween range.

Halloween is definitely for all ages and seems to be more and more popular with teenagers particularly, probably thanks to all the gruesome TV shows they watch and the opportunity that Halloween presents to legitimately wear ripped fishnets. Belle has even been invited to Halloween parties this year. Who knew teens loved Halloween so much? View Post

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Belle sat her GCSEs in June this year, and so in September she moved onto college. It was a big move for her. I’m not going to go on about her struggles or anything, but I’m sure she wouldn’t mind me saying that she didn’t exactly find the last few months of school EASY. Basically she didn’t really go, so, yes, not easy. However, she passed all her exams, so onwards and upwards.

Belle starting college has been a bit of a fresh start for me too. Because I’ve been worried about her, and because it’s just the two of us at home, I feel that I’ve become a bit more controlling of things than I would normally be. Controlling is perhaps the wrong word – interfering maybe. I’m always asking her if she’s had things to eat and drink and how she slept and suggesting she go for a walk or read a book or wash some clothes. I nag and nag her not to be late for things, I remind her to do stuff that she should probably just remember for herself.

I’ve started to annoy even me.

With the start of college then, I made the decision to generally BACK OFF, because I know the theory – if she isn’t ever left to take responsibility for herself, she won’t see the consequences of forgetting to eat lunch or do homework or whatever it might be – and yet I’ve stopped putting it into practice. I’ve frustrated myself because encouraging independence has always been something that I thought I was really good at and yet I’ve found myself in this position where I’ve not done either of us any favours, because I’ve not left her to learn things for herself.

I need to do something about it because I really don’t want her to leave home in a couple of years and to be worrying that she will forget to eat.

What I want to know now then, is where do you draw the line with a child who is old enough to do things like leave home, pilot a glider and join a trade union, and yet forgets to clean her teeth, take her clothes out of the washing machine or DRINK FLUIDS?  View Post

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When I was 35 I made a list of 40 things I wanted to do before I was 40. It was quite a mixed list – everything from riding the wooden escalators in Macy’s in New York to making my own lemon curd. I wasn’t sure how I’d get on with it to be honest. I did wonder if once I’d bought the notebook I might let it fall by the wayside, but actually I really got into it. Having a list gave me a sense of purpose – something to focus on when I was feeling a bit lost or bored or not sure what to do on a Sunday afternoon.

I turned 40 in April and although I didn’t manage everything on the list I came pretty close. (You’ll have to go and read it to see which I missed.) In fact I enjoyed it so much that I decided to make another one.

50 things to do before I’m 50.

It’s kind of scary to think about. 40 feels like a pretty cool age, prime of lime and all that, but 50? I don’t know. 50 feels different. 50 feels OLD. Like a proper grown-up. Am I still going to be able to wear t-shirts with cats on when I’m 50? Can I still eat party rings and read Nancy Drew books? It feels like uncharted territory.

When I first wrote the 40 things before 40 post I didn’t have 40 things on the list. I wanted to get it started though, to get the ball rolling, and then I added more things to it as I thought of them. I wanted to do the same with my 50 things before 50 list. Ten years is a long time so I have plenty of time to add things as I go along. Who knows what opportunities might present themselves or what new interests I might stumble across?

This is just a starting point then, so if you have any suggestions please do let me know, the more specific the better. I find that having really specific goals gives me a much better focus and is far more satisfying to tick off.

Here’s my list of 50 things to do before I’m 50:

  • Stay at Gladstone’s library
  • Take a road trip in a convertible (ideally a blue roadster so I can pretend to be Nancy Drew.)
  • Go to the airport and take a random flight
  • Make a Baked Alaska
  • Become a Granny (bit out of my control but I’m adding it anyway)
  • Stay in an old school VW camper van – I’ve done this one! The van was even green like the photo I found when I made the list.
vintage vw camper

Photo by Eric Muhr on Unsplash

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GAWD 23 years is a LONG TIME isn’t it?? More than half my life in fact. Over 8000 days.

Oh hang on, 8000 days somehow doesn’t sound as much does it? Let’s stick with 23 years.

Donkey Sanctuary

Any excuse to use the ‘Belle looking like the very small host of a donkey documentary’ photo.

Anyway, you’d hope that over that time I would have learnt a few things – you know, picked up some tips and tricks, stuff not to do. So here’s a list I came up with of some of the things I’ve learnt as a parent.

1.  You will always be a parent. Even when they grow up and leave home they still need you, just in different ways. (Mainly cash based.)

2.  Don’t take a toddler into a big Asda when they are tired or hungry. It WILL end in tears, probably yours in the car park.

3.  There is never a ‘right’ way to cut sandwiches – what was right yesterday will be wrong today so always check.

4.  Even when they get older and should have realised by now, your children will still think you know the ‘answers’. Belle asked me yesterday when the right amount of time is to tell someone you love them.

5.  Every school concert you ever go to will make you want to poke forks into yourself and then your youngest will leave school and you will cry quietly to yourself at the thought of never going to another badly performed nativity.

6.  Having pizza for two meals in one day is totally legitimate. View Post

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Laura Dockrill has been a crush of mine for quite a few years now. She writes and performs with such an honest, imaginative voice – she’s just a joy. When I was asked if I fancied interviewing her ahead of her appearance this month at the Cheltenham Literature Festival I had a quick chat with the cats about it and they agreed that we definitely should. (I *may* have been spending too much time at home on my own lately.)

Laura Dockrill Cheltenham festival

Hi Laura, thanks so much for taking the time to answer some of my questions! I’ve followed (stalked) you on Twitter for ages, and so I’m thrilled to get to ask you some questions. [Me playing it cool.] Let’s start with Angry Cookie. This book is something slightly different for you in that it’s a picture book aimed at younger children – where did the inspiration come from and how was it different from writing for older readers?

I wanted to show anger in a different light and portray it as friendship, the importance of asking our friends if they are ok even if they push us away, even if it means we keep coming back. That is the importance of the reader, to keep coming back, to not give up on the cookie. And the cookie- I wanted to choose a traditionally stereotypically ridiculously sweet treat that could have all these anger issues to demonstrate that it can happen to absolutely everybody. I wanted to write something for little ones as I always visit them at school and never ever have anything for them to read so it was about time. And I’ve always wanted to work with Walker so it was a dream come true! View Post

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I had a bit of a moment on Twitter last week.

On reflection, I think I was a bit pre-menstrual, which is where the ‘need a boyfriend’ bit came in, plus it was bin day, and bin day always makes me feel slightly less keen on being single. The dice thing, just so you don’t think I’m a bit slow with maths, was something I did know, but I was writing the post about the 648 different ways with yogurt and so I wanted to double check just in case.

‘Stylish recycling bins’ though, now that is a real dilemma.

Bins full stop in fact. It baffles me, because a bin is something that everyone has, and yet 99% of them are HELLA GRIM. I just don’t get it. We spend so much time and money on making our homes look lovely, and then you have to ruin it by sticking a stack of ugly white plastic boxes in the corner of your kitchen, next to a hideous metal and black plastic monstrosity that is YOUR BIN. View Post

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‘Domestic violence is the abuse of one partner within an intimate or family relationship. It is the repeated, random and habitual use of intimidation to control a partner. The abuse can be physical, emotional, psychological, financial or sexual. Anyone forced to alter their behaviour because they are frightened of their partner’s reaction is being abused.’  

Credit – Refuge

Think about that for a bit.

‘Anyone forced to alter their behaviour because they are frightened of their partner’s reaction is being abused.’

According to the Office for National Statistics, one woman in four experiences domestic violence in her lifetime, so the chances are that if you don’t recognise that statement in yourself, it may well be happening to someone you know. Perhaps they’re hiding it, perhaps you have your suspicions, maybe it’s obvious but you don’t know what to do to help.

One option is to get in touch with Refuge. Refuge supports anyone who has experienced domestic abuse in any of its forms, through a range of services including, but not limited to, refuges, advocacy and a telephone helpline, run in partnership with Women’s Aid. (Open 24 hours a day – 0808 2000 247).

(If you’re nervous about visiting the Refuge website it might be useful to know that it has an escape bar across the top of the page – click on it anytime and it will immediately change the screen to show the Google homepage.)

Today, September 5th, is International Day of Charity and I wanted to use it to make sure that as many people as possible know about Refuge and that anyone looking for support, either for themselves or someone else, can access it as quickly as possible.

What is domestic abuse?

Because domestic abuse encompasses so much more than just physical violence, it can be hard to be sure whether or not you are experiencing it.

That might sound like a strange thing to say, but when you’re in a relationship it can be hard to get perspective on a situation. You make excuses for people you love, you blame a difficult background or problems at work perhaps, because you don’t want to believe that they would hurt you. You are probably scared – scared to admit the abuse to yourself or other people or scared of the consequences of taking action to get away.

If you suspect that you might be experiencing domestic abuse, take a look at the following questions from the Refuge website: View Post

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Belle was having a bit of a freak out last night about starting college today.

She was doing her summer holiday homework, (clearly VERY prepared), which involved creating a Pinterest board about herself. I was throwing ideas at her, she was dismissing them. (Genuinely her homework was to create a selection of Pinterest boards. How is that homework?)

At the same time she was having a bit of a generalised meltdown. She’s doing a music based A-level and she’s worried that she can ‘only’ sing.

‘You have beautiful voice though,’ I said, ‘and grade seven singing.’

‘But that’s just a VOICE,’ she said, ‘I’ve not had to LEARN something have I?’

‘Just because it feels easy to you,’ I said, ‘doesn’t mean you aren’t good.’

She raised her eyebrows.

‘Take the Beatles,’ she said, ‘John Lennon could play the guitar, piano, keyboards, saxophone, harmonica, six-string bass guitar and some percussion. And then you have Ringo Starr playing the drums. I’M RINGO STARR. No one wants to be Ringo Starr.’

I thought that actually a lot of people probably really wouldn’t mind being Ringo Starr. I told her she needed to find some things to add to her Pinterest boards about comparison being the thief of joy.

‘The thing is,’ I said, ‘you’re never going to be the absolute best at anything – it takes a certain type of weirdo to be the best in the world at any one thing. We’re never going to be that person because we have friends and family and other interests.’

I wasn’t sure her I was winning her over.

‘You can’t beat yourself up for not being THE best,’ I went on, ‘you just have to be your OWN best.’ View Post

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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

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