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Last weekend I met a friend in a café in Langport for brunch.

‘We can visit my old dining table!’, I said, in reply to her suggestion. ‘It lives there now!’

‘I am weirdly looking forward to that,’ she replied, proving why we’ve been friends for nearly thirty years.

You might be wondering why exactly my dining table now lives in a café in Langport. It’s because when we first bought our house around five years ago, my partner at the time was a teensy bit on the controlling side and was insistent that proper people ate their meals at a table. Now in principle I’ve nothing against this – gathering around a table for a family meal is all very wholesome, sharing news, playing games, nothing to dislike there.

My idea of sitting down around a dining table though would be in a lovely big kitchen, preferably with bifold doors opening onto a beautiful garden. The table would be a long wooden table, maybe with benches either side and obviously with some sort of charming homegrown flower arrangement in the centre.

Something like this one from Furniture Village:

Best dining tables

You get the vibe right?

Unfortunately the only house I could afford to buy just has a small kitchen and a average sized living room, large enough for a small dining table as long as you don’t insist on having a piano taking up one wall. OH WAIT. Yes, ex-boyfriend insisted on having a piano taking up one wall, meaning the only space for a table of any kind was in the kitchen, wedged into a corner, where to sit down you had to take turns and breathe in. If you wanted to go outside you had to open the back door only very slightly and squeeze through carefully. Not a bifold in sight.

Idyllic was NOT the word. View Post

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I had twenty years of one or other of my children being at school or college.

Imagine that, twenty years! Twenty years of packed lunches and nagging about homework and traipsing round shop after shop looking for exactly the right kind of skort. Twenty years of heading to Clarks and taking one of those tickets like you’re at an old supermarket deli counter, looking around at all the other parents who’ve also left it until August 31st to buy school shoes.

My point is, it’s a long time, long enough that you’d hope I’d have learnt a few lessons and be able to impart some back to school wisdom.

Here are a few things I’ve picked up along the way…

Always get the school photos

I know, they’re a rip off, and at the time you think ‘well I KNOW what they look like, I don’t need to pay £27.95 for that privilege’ but take it from me, you will forget. And yes, you’ve very likely got masses of photos of them already, but really how many photos of them do you have looking smart in their school uniform, posing for the slightly eccentric school photographer?

The top one here is Bee. The one underneath is me at a similar age. Whenever I think of myself, this is how I picture me still now, aged 44.

Are school photos worth it?

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Advertisement feature in association with Sammy Satsuma personalised recipe books

Sammy Satsuma recipe book review

This week Joey came round for the afternoon to do some baking. He turned three last month, and although I wasn’t entirely sure how good he would be at concentrating, I thought it was worth a try as cooking with kids is one of my favourite things to do. I always volunteer for the cooking activities at Brownies because they just love it so much and there’s always at least one who tries something they thought they didn’t like.

Initially Joey was sceptical about standing on the chair and seemed more interested in putting a yellow football in and out of the shed and saying he was going on holiday, but as soon as I got him in front of the pastry and he realised there was jam to spread he was 100% invested.

Cooking with kids

We were making a recipe from Joey’s new personalised recipe book from Sammy Satsuma. The concept behind Sammy Satsuma is simple – cooking is fundamental in teaching children about food and nutrition and getting kids involved in cooking means they’re more likely to try new foods. Being part of the cooking process gives them a sense of pride and investment in their food, which makes it a totally different experience from just having a meal plonked down in front of them. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Samsung SmartThings Energy

A few months ago I had an email from my energy providers to inform me that my monthly direct debit would be going up from £100 a month to £150 to allow for price increases. I felt a little aggrieved, because as much as I appreciate that costs are going up, I live in a two and a half bedroom semi, don’t have a dishwasher or tumble dryer, and I only have three radiators switched on, so really how much energy am I even using?

Still, there we were. I’m not the only one I know, people everywhere are feeling the impact, and I’m grateful that I am able to absorb it at least. It’s horrendously sad reading about the families spending their evenings in McDonalds sharing a Happy Meal because it’s cheaper to stay warm and use the WiFi there to watch TV than it is to be at home.

Even so, £150 a month feels like a huge amount to be paying and I am always keen to save money on my energy bills if I can. I’m forever turning off lights and telling Belle to turn the TV off – she has an annoying habit of just pausing it for hours at a time while she’s watching TikTok videos instead – but it’s hard to get a sense of what really makes a difference.

I have a smart meter at home and I have the little gadget on the windowsill, but to be honest I don’t really look at it and sometimes just switch it off because all it does it scare me, it doesn’t help.

Samsung energy app

Maybe if it could give me some tips or help me manage my appliances better, that would be useful?

What is Samsung SmartThings Energy?

SmartThings Energy is a completely free app from Samsung, available on iOS or Android, that connects to your smart meter, whoever your energy provider. It not only monitors your energy usage, but actually offers practical tips and solutions to help you save money. So basically like the smart meter gadget, only better. View Post

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Last week I tidied my bedroom. Tidying my bedroom makes me feel like I’m 15 years old because in my mind grown-ups are meant to have the sort of bedrooms that somehow stay tidy. Grown ups put their pants in the laundry basket before they get into bed and definitely don’t leave them on the floor.

*looks shifty*

What I concluded in the process of tidying my bedroom was that I simply have too much stuff in there. I have lovely built in wardrobes, so it’s not like I’m short of basic storage, but there was just so much clutter everywhere, piles of toiletries and books and a large old bedside table with a huge drawer full of cables for phones I no longer have and dead batteries and old plasters.

Rather than just tidying it then, I did a proper sort out. I gathered up all the coins and old hair bands, I threw out rubbish and I filled EIGHT bags to take to the charity shop. EIGHT! I don’t even know how I did that really, I don’t even have a big bedroom. I think it was mainly clearing out the shelves in the top of my wardrobes, which I’d probably not looked at since I had the wardrobes built. This made space for sensibly stored bags and shoes and suddenly the room itself was freed up to become the tranquil oasis of calm that I always want my bedroom to be.

Then it was time for the fun bit.

I’d been asked to team up with Very, who are honestly a bit of a mecca for furniture and homewares. I didn’t realise that as well as lots of own brand stuff they actually carry all kinds of other brands, so as well as choosing one of their lovely rattan bedside tables from the sideboards section I also picked a gorgeous solid oak bench from Cox & Cox and lots of lovely bits and bobs to accessorise with too.

I had a very jolly couple of hours carefully arranging plants and ornaments and I am extremely pleased with the result.

Very sideboards View Post

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 This post is a collaboration with Stagecoach, but all thoughts and experiences are my own

Belle and I very much enjoy a day out, but there are two factors lately that are making day trips feel like a lot less fun than they should be.

One is the driving. I don’t know if it’s just that I’ve been really busy this year, or that I’m getting old or something, but the thought of getting in the car again and driving for God knows how long just to have to drive all the way back again isn’t getting me excited. Secondly of course there’s the cost of fuel. When we got our car three years ago it cost about £60 to fill up. Last week it cost me £93. I’ve never been someone who doesn’t go somewhere because of the petrol cost but it’s hard to ignore at the moment isn’t it?

So, I don’t want to drive and petrol is too expensive, so what to do??

COME IN STAGECOACH!

To be honest I never think about buses. I think because I’m prone to travel sickness I’m a little wary, but since I discovered Dramamine while touring, my travel has been pretty revolutionised. I have checked emails in the BACK OF A CAR! Who’d have ever thought it! I’ve got the coach from Taunton to Bristol airport before, but I’ve never thought of going on a bit further and into the centre of Bristol.

I decided to take on the Stagecoach bus trip challenge and plan a day out by coach.

I started off on the Stagecoach journey planner, investigating the route to Bristol. The coach that goes to Bristol from Taunton is the Falcon, travelling between Plymouth and Bristol, all day every day. It has plug sockets and Wifi, comfy seats and seatbelts – very different to what you might think of when you think bus.

Falcon bus service View Post

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Despite being a parent now for nearly 27 years – *gulps* – it took me until my kids were 16 and 9 to get around to buying life insurance. (Even worse, they were 19 and 12 before I made a will, but let’s not talk about that.)

I don’t know what it was about the life insurance, but somehow for 16 years it just kept slipping further and further down the never ending list of Important Things To Do. In my head I think it was super complicated, and possibly involved me doing some kind of invasive medical exam, and so I shoved it to one side and tried not to think about death.

Time passed though, relationships ended, and I came to realise that if I died, that was that, there wasn’t going to be a wealthy family to step in, my kids would be on their own. I did the briefest of research, took out a very cheap and basic ten year policy, and imagined that by the time that finished and Belle was 19, they would both have left home and be completely financially independent. Also we might all get about on hoverboards.

But wait a minute, what’s that you say? Belle IS 19 and we AREN’T all on hoverboards??

So here we are, it’s ten years later, my life insurance has expired but somehow both of my children are still in some way financially supported by me, plus now I own a house with 25 years left on the mortgage and I have four pets.

If I were to die tomorrow, who’s keeping the dog in luxury treats?? Now more than ever it turns out, I need to know that everyone is going to be taken care of financially if I die.

life insurance for parents

I’ve even become a Granny, which was something I wasn’t expecting. I chip in for a couple of things for Joey every month and so now it’s not even just my own children that I need to think about, now there’s this little cutie too. View Post

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I was catching up on Married At First Sight Australia yesterday and they were having their final dates – the chance for the men to show the women exactly how romantic they are, presumably at the expense of the show as for some of them it involved yachts. There is also always some kind of charcuterie board involved, which makes me wonder how much choice they actually get, but you get the gist.

Watching the dates play out I couldn’t help but cringe. All of the men were so pleased with themselves, scattering rose petals left, right and centre, running baths and offering up the charcuterie boards like they’d spent the afternoon hand curing the meats. Some of the women lapped it up, others looked a little more awkward as their husbands ran around pointing out all of the romantic things they’d done.

‘Look! White roses! Your favourite! Look at the wine I chose because I wrote it down when you mentioned you liked it!’

Now don’t get me wrong, I love it when people pay attention and remember the things I say I like. I really love it. It makes me feel seen and heard and I love that someone wants to make me feel like that. It’s one of the ways I show someone that I like them too, and so I appreciate it. What makes it feel less special though is when it’s all pointed out to you, like you’re then obliged to notice and be impressed.

I like more romance more subtle than that.

What is romance View Post

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I know that no one cares about those ‘God I’m so sorry I’ve not blogged in so long! How you must have missed me!’ posts, because let’s face it, you didn’t even notice I was gone did you?

I bloody knew it. How rude.

The hiatus has been for reasons two-fold. One, I seem to live my life on Instagram stories and forget that some people still read actual long sentences rather than just looking at pictures of me having a cup of tea in the garden. Two, I’ve been on tour! Doesn’t that sound glam? I say it casually to men on Tinder – ‘Oh gosh sorry for the slow reply, I’ve been on tour you know!’ – and it FEELS terrible glam to me. It actually has been a lot of fun, although I’ve learnt that dressing rooms are really way less luxurious than I had imagined them to be. Mainly it’s just a few plastic chairs and a shower in the corner. More hospital waiting room that backstage home to the stars.

I’ve been the host of a book tour for the Sunday Times bestselling, all round very funny and clever Gill Sims, who writes the Why Mummy series of books and has just realised her fifth novel, The Saturday Night Sauvignon Sisterhood, which, fun fact, I was only the third person to read. It’s very good. I cried twice – once sad tears and once happy tears – which isn’t bad considering my daughter Bee has always maintained I have a heart of stone. View Post

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best skincare routine

I took Belle with me on tour last week for our show in Solihull. We were getting into bed in the hotel and I was just getting comfy when she looked across as me accusingly.

‘Are you not even going to take your make-up off?’ she asked horrified.

‘No,’ I said, ‘should I?’

She gave me a wipe. Apparently the answer was yes.  View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with HyperJar

I’ve never been very good at pocket money. When my kids were younger I would start off with great intentions, and then I’d have a day where I’d feel all carefree and expansive and like nothing really mattered, so I might as well buy them treats.

My children quickly cottoned onto these moods and called them ‘put anything in the trolley’ days. With Belle now, even though she’s 19 and earns her own money, it still happens. In Tesco just last week I somehow ended up buying her the official Taylor Swift magazine. Guilt I suspect, for the fact that I was going away. She saw weakness and she made the most of it. Good for her.

When Belle was younger we did have a brief fling with a pocket money app where kids could get their own card. Belle loved this, because she’s always very much doing things like pressing the buttons for me at cashpoints, but the fees for it made it seem a bit silly – why was I spending twice as much as I needed every month, just for the sake of a few pounds on a card? Surely it made more sense to just let Belle have it all in cash? I think we ended up actually opening a full blown bank account in the end, just because it was cheaper.

If your kids aren’t old or wise enough to have their own bank account or debit card but you still like the idea of teaching them about money and how to save and spend it, then HyperJar could be the answer.

HyperJar is a totally free money app that adults can use to budget, save for specific items and events, and even earn bonuses on spending. It works very visually by allocating money to different jars, which you create according to how you want to spend your money. I know finances can be daunting and that many people, including Belle, find something visual much easier to understand than spreadsheets.

How HyperJar works

For the grown ups, HyperJar works like this:

  • You transfer money into your HyperJar account. (This money is held by the Bank of England, not HyperJar, so it’s quite safe.)
  • You set up jars for different areas of spending, like food shopping, treats, or long term savings like holidays.
  • When you want to spend money from your jars, just link the jar to your HyperJar card, (this can be real or virtual), and spend directly from the jar.
  • You can cut out the pre-transaction linking part by setting up retailers to automatically link to a particular jar. For example you could link Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Aldi to your food jar and anytime you spend money with one of them it will automatically come from that jar.

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The Roomba i3+ robot vacuum was a gift from iRobot. All views my own.

One of the only times I lament being single is when I’m doing boring household chores like vacuuming or putting out the bins. It’s because in my mind a husband would be someone with whom I could share housework equally, someone who would say ‘I noticed the kitchen floor needed a clean so be careful in case it’s still wet’ and ‘don’t be silly, put your feet up, I’ll take the cats for their vaccinations, I already made the appointment.’

And then I laugh cynically to myself because I remember that actually being in a relationship wouldn’t be like that at all. Being in a relationship, in my experience at least, involves waiting weeks for your partner to vaguely LOOK in the direction of the kitchen floor, seething quietly with resentment, and then doing it yourself, loudly, to make a point.

Much better just to get a robot vacuum, do away with the bitterness AND get to watch what you want on the TV.

Robot vacuum review

My robot vacuum even matches my carpet – how chic!

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