In association with Red Letter Days

When you think Red Letter Days gift experiences, what do you think?

I have to admit that until a few weeks ago my first thought would have been package spa breaks and track days. Not that there’s anything wrong with either of those things – I like a lounge in a sauna and prosecco lunch as much as the next person – but Red Letter Days is about so much more than that, as I found out when Red Letter Days asked me to choose an experience to, well, experience. 

I started off with a browse, which takes a while as there is a LOT to browse. Honestly, I challenge you NOT to find a Christmas gift for just about anyone in your life. I was tempted initially by the London theatre and dinner packages – if you like comedy then I would DEFINITELY recommend this offer for The Play That Goes Wrong – it’s such good fun. Two tickets plus dinner for two for just £109, which is a bit of a bargain.

I liked some of the adrenaline activities too – how cool would it be to take a vintage Tiger Moth over Stonehenge or to undertake a private investigator surveillance mission at London Paddington? (Even though I’m 40 now I still want to believe that one day I will turn into Nancy Drew, the sassy teen detective.)

And then there’s all the food and drink options – I lingered for a long time over the bottomless gin and tonic afternoon tea.

In the end though I opted for a cookery course at River Cottage HQ in Devon. It was well timed for me as I’ve been in a massive cooking rut recently and we’ve been consuming unhealthy amounts of frozen chicken products. I’ve been trying to be more creative, but sometimes you need a bit of a kick up the bum to reignite an interest in something or to make you feel more confident in your own abilities.

Booking the course with my Red Letter Days voucher was easy – there were instructions on the voucher and then contact details for the venue, easy peasy. I packed my selection of Tupperware for leftovers, as advised, and set out for Devon.

I knew the day was going to go well when one of the first things we were told was that there was a bar and that if we wanted any drinks brought to us during the day we just had to ask Steve, and he would sort us out. Needless to say Steve sorted me out with a couple of lovely gin and tonics – the spa day vibe without even needing to hoist myself into a swimming costume.

The one day River Cottage course covers a whole range of cooking techniques, from bread-making to fish filleting, so we started off by getting our dough on the go.

Red Letter Days cookery courses View Post

In association with The Inner Circle

I’ve been single for about 14 months. Although I enjoy the freedom and the space in the bed, I’d love to have someone to share things with. I’ve dabbled with the ‘swipey’ dating apps, but it gets depressing when you just see the same faces holding the same giant fish…

When The Inner Circle asked me if I wanted to check out their selective dating site I played it cool for about 37 seconds, then shouted ‘Yes please!’

The Inner Circle review

I’ve just started exploring the site, so can’t tell you (yet) that The Inner Circle is THE place to meet the partner of your dreams, but I CAN tell you what makes it different from other dating sites.  View Post

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.

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.

View Post

In partnership with On the Beach

A few years ago I was chatting to Bee about something or other, I can’t remember what. I think perhaps I was feeling a bit overworked at the time because I started going into this daydream.

‘Wouldn’t it be lovely,’ I said to Bee, gazing into the distance, ‘to be somewhere really warm right not, where you didn’t have to do anything?’

She looked at me.

‘There would probably be relaxing noises in the background,’ I continued, ‘maybe the noise of the sea? And someone would bring me a cocktail.’

She looked at me again, like I was actually quite stupid.

‘That’s a beach holiday mum,’ she said.

‘A beach holiday?’ I asked.

‘Yes,’ she said, ‘it’s what everyone in the world wants. You’ve not just invented it.’

‘Oh,’ I said, disappointed. I imagined I’d just created a personal paradise that no one had thought of before. Since then ‘beach holidays’ has become a bit of a family saying that we use if someone is stating the obvious. Like if Bee is complaining about work, telling me how what she’d really like is a flexible job that’s well paid, but also creative and worthwhile and good for the environment and what not.

‘Dur,’ I’ll say, ‘beach holidays.’

When On the Beach got in touch then, to ask me if I wanted to write something about our family beach holidays, this was the first thing I thought about. THEN I started picturing all of those happy times we’ve spent on the beach together, enjoying the sand and the sea, relaxing in each other’s company.

View Post

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

Although it might be controversial, I’ve always considered myself more of a biscuit than a cake kind of girl. Presented with a slice of red velvet I’d be a bit ‘meh’, but give me a packet of chocolate hobnobs and I’m well away.

One of my very favourite biscuits is the bourbon.

The bourbon has so much going for it – it’s chocolatey, but with that slightly salty edge of an Oreo. It has the crunchy biscuit texture, but a creamy middle, and it’s a sandwich biscuit, so basically two biscuits disguised as one. If you’re prepared to be a bit disgusting, split your bourbon and noisily lick the cream then you can make a bourbon last a long time.

homemade bourbon biscuits

Now you’re probably looking at that picture and thinking ‘hang on a minute, those kind of LOOK like bourbons, but also they don’t? What’s going on?’

Well, I MADE THEM. I know. Get me. View Post