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I recently set up an alert for houses near me on Rightmove.

I’m not one of those people who normally has Rightmove as a hobby, but I got a bit overexcited a couple of months ago when a house identical to mine came on the market in the next street for £85,000 more than I paid for mine four year ago. That might not seem much in the grand house buying scheme of things, but given that I only paid £180,000 for mine, it feels significant.

So, then I started having house move fantasies, obviously, not really stopping to consider the cost of actually moving, or the fact that if house prices have increased I’d also need to spend more… BLAH BLAH BLAH! Not listening! I just wanted to look at the pictures okay? Let me be.

What I quickly discovered was that there are two types of house sellers out there. The first type don’t seem inclined even to make their beds, and have random piles of crap scattered everywhere, leaving you not entirely sure what a room is even meant to be. I swear I looked at one last week where in one room they just had what appeared to be a giant metal safe and a box full of chains.

And then you have the second type, who have breakfast bars. 

A breakfast bar has always felt to me like the height of sophistication, and the second type know how to work them. The breakfast bars in type two photos are adorned with overflowing bowls of plump fruits, luring me into the fantasy that if only I bought this house, I would become the sort of woman who enjoyed apples, who would actively choose to snack on an apple in fact, even over a Jaffa cake.

Type two breakfast bars have bar stools that will make you feel like you’re in swanky cocktail bar. All you have to do is perch yourself on a type two bar stool and the husband/butler of dreams will appear, ready to slide a hand crafted cocktail down the breakfast bar towards you while he whips you up some sort of wholesome dinner involving steamed sea bass.

‘All you need is this breakfast bar,’ the type two Rightmove pictures whisper at me, ‘and your life will be complete.’

You’re feeling it right?

To further immerse myself in the breakfast/cocktail bar fantasy I went old school and made myself a Pinterest board. Remember when everyone made Pinterest boards? I haven’t used Pinterest for ages but oh my goodness it was such fun. Cutting and sticking without getting glue all over your clothes.

This is my breakfast cocktail bar board. You can see the vibe I’m going for can’t you? I will never be able to afford it, but a woman can dream.

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In case you don’t follow me on Instagram, we are getting a puppy at the end of the month. It will be Belle’s puppy, so I’m under strict instructions about the use of things like the term ‘pupdate’ in Instagram captions, much to my regret.

Before the puppy arrives and takes over our lives in the best, fluffiest possible way, we’ve been making the most of our freedom by having days out and weekends away and going to IKEA. One such outing recently was an overnight stay in Windsor.

I think I may have been to Windsor once before, but I’ve never been to Windsor Castle, and to be honest if you go to Windsor and don’t go to the castle, have you even been? It would be like going to Cheddar and not eating some cheese. (I think I’ve done this too to be honest.) During our 24 hours in Windsor then I was definitely going to visit the castle, just to prove I existed. I think that’s how it works.

Windsor Castle

Our accommodation in Windsor

We were put up for the night in Windsor, very generously, by the aptly named Accommodation Windsor.

Accommodation Windsor has a wide range of self catering accommodation throughout the town – 45 properties in fact – ranging from small. serviced apartments through to a 5-bedroom guest house right in the town centre. They’re nearly all walking distance into Windsor, and their vibe is clean, modern home away from home. View Post

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untold stories slummy single mummy

Today’s Untold Stories is contributed anonymously by a mum of one who I met randomly online a few months ago. We got to talking and before I knew it, she was sharing her story. ‘I don’t love my husband,’ she told me, ‘but I don’t know how to leave him.’ (People tell me things, I don’t know what it is.) She asked if she could write a post for my Untold Stories section to help her clarify her own thoughts and to hopefully get feedback and support from other people about what she should do. I know what I think, but I’d love to hear your comments.

I feel guilty even writing this. In so many ways I know I have a perfect life – great friends, a lovely, affection son, a big house, a husband who is perfectly nice…

But that’s the trouble. He’s perfectly nice, but that’s all. He doesn’t hit me, but that’s hardly a reason to stay married to someone is it? When it’s just me and the thoughts in my head though, it feels like it should be. Sometimes I’ve wished he’d do something awful – come home drunk and confess to an affair with his secretary, or tell me he’s slept with a prostitute or something, anything that would make me feel justified in ending our marriage.

I know I could just leave, but as easy as that feels to say to the characters on the TV who are clearly stuck in an unhappy marriage, when it comes to saying it to myself? Somehow the words don’t come as easily. I look at my husband with my son, in the garden at weekends, playing football, laughing, and it feels like such an awful cliché that sometimes I wonder if I’m the TV show, looking out.

My son is nine now. When I try to think back to when I first met my husband, to when I was pregnant, when we were new parents, it feels hazy. I want to remember how it felt to be in love with him, imagining that if I could hold that feeling even just for a moment, that I could recapture it, but I can’t. I’ve thought about it so much, replayed the past so many times, looking for clues, that I can’t even remember now if I ever loved him?

I think I did. Would I have married him otherwise? I’m not sure.

He’s a kind man. He’s sweet and generous and loves his family. Why can’t I return that love? How could I take everything away from him when he’s done nothing wrong?

That’s the crux of it for me, that idea of right and wrong. He’s done nothing wrong and therefore I have no valid reason to leave. My unhappiness isn’t a reason enough, but I’m not sure why. Perhaps because the status quo is passive? I’m already unhappy, suck it up, leaving would make TWO people unhappy – father and son – and it doesn’t take an expert to do that maths. What gives me the right to think that my ONE is worth more than their TWO?

At the moment, while I don’t love my husband anymore, I don’t hate him either. We rub along, I’m good at pretending, maybe he knows, maybe he doesn’t. I worry though that over time this tolerance is going to erode. I don’t want to hate him. I don’t want to start resenting the way he spreads butter on bread.

But I don’t know how to leave. I don’t know how to feel okay with making my own happiness more important than by husband and son’s.

Read more Untold Stories here. If you’d like to contribute your own, please get in touch.

I don't love my husband anymore

Photo by Katie Drazdauskaite on Unsplash

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Advertisement feature in association with Portify – the app that could help improve your credit score

We flew to Ireland a couple of weeks ago to see my sister and to celebrate my mum’s 70th birthday and before we went we all had to do PCR tests. Completing the tests and waiting on the results made me incredibly anxious. I couldn’t figure out why, but then I realised it made me feel exactly the same way I used to feel having credit checks done.

I read the test instructions carefully over and over, filled out all the forms, and sent them off. I nervously awaited the results, knowing it was completely outside of my control and yet at the same time worrying irrationally, as though the results would somehow be a reflection on my very worth as a human being.

If you’ve ever been in debt or had a bad credit rating then you can probably relate. I’ve talked a bit before about getting into debt as a single parent in my teens and early twenties. Doing your degree as a single mum at a university 50 miles away from where you live is never going to be exactly cost effective, and I lived with the consequences of that for quite a long time. Every time I moved house and had to complete credit checks through an agency I would feel that potent mix of dread and shame. I felt judged for my poor credit score, even though I knew the test were probably being done automatically by a computer. I felt the computer judging me.

Facing up to those debts and feeling like I’ve reached a financially secure place in my life is something I’m really proud of. I was pregnant aged 16 and have been a single mum on and off for 25 years. I’ve had very little financial support from ex-partners and honestly, raising a family alone isn’t cheap – the cost of single parenting is high. I’ve also been self-employed as a writer for 12 years, and didn’t necessarily give that a huge amount of thought before I jumped in and bought a second hand desk on eBay*, so finally being able to do things like buy a house feels amazing.

It’s a small house, sure, but it’s mine. I made it happen, no one else. I also finally feel like I have the freedom to start thinking about what I might like to save for in the future. I would absolutely LOVE to have a campervan for instance, and drive around having adventures and ideally solving mysteries.

Why is your credit score important?

Does it really matter if you have a bad credit score? Yes is the short answer. Your credit score not only impacts your ability to borrow money, (including basic things like getting mobile phone contracts), but it also effects how much it costs you to borrow money. If your credit score is poor then lenders will consider you a riskier proposition that someone with a good credit score and so will allow for that by charging you higher rates of interest.

This means that you could end up paying a lot more than someone else for borrowing the same amount of money. This is particularly noticeable for large, long term borrowing like a mortgage. Being charged just a percentage point or two more interest can add up to tens of thousands of pounds over the term of your mortgage. Try the Portify calculator now to see how much money you could save by improving your credit rating from ‘fair’ to ‘excellent’.

How can I improve my credit score?

It takes time to improve your credit score, but the good news is that there are a lot of things you can do to help it along the way. Simple things like making sure you’re on the electoral register, finding out your current score and checking your file for mistakes or erroneous links to other people can all have an impact.

If you long to improve your credit score and lose that shame around debt then I’ve picked out four key ways to improve your credit rating, including one that you might not even know about.

1. Face up to your financial problems

This sounds so easy but being in debt and having a bad credit rating is scary. I understand, I really do. You want to pretend it’s not there, ignore the letters, maybe even try to make yourself feel better about the shame by spending more money. You’re human, it’s normal to want to run away from something scary.

It’s not going to work though. Sorry. Debt isn’t going to go away. Your credit score isn’t going to miraculously improve if you ignore it. Moving house is only delaying the inevitable – debt catches up to you and it’s far better to turn and face it head on than to constantly feel like you’re running. Wouldn’t it feel good to not feel like you’re hiding?

What I learned from being in debt is that most companies are happy enough as long as you are honest. Stuff happens, money gets out of control, it’s okay, you just have to own that and deal with it. Take stock of your finances and write down exactly what you have going in and out. Get in touch with the people you are struggling to pay and lay it out for them. Make them a realistic offer – not a huge amount that you think will please them but that isn’t sustainable – something you can stick to.

Take charge. Be the boss of your credit score.

2. Do not miss payments

Well dur. This might seem obvious, but it’s absolutely key. Missed payments are one of the most significant things that effect your credit score and so making sure you pay all of your bills on time, from your broadband to your mortgage, is vital.

Making all of your payments on time is one of the most important ways to prove to credit agencies that you’re trustworthy and reliable, and it ties into the first point too – taking control, monitoring your expenditure and generally just not burying your head in the sand can help to make sure you don’t miss payment dates.

3. Consider a service like Portify

This is the sort of help that wasn’t around when I was in debt, but it’s something that you might want to consider if you’re serious about building up your credit score. The Portify app works in several ways to help you manage your credit rating, through free and paid for packages, and you can sign up in just three minutes.

Improve credit score Portify review

At the free level, Portify empowers you to feel more in control of your money by tracking your income and expenses, and will alert you to bills that could impact your credit score. Through Open Banking, the app identifies your subscriptions and recurring payments and then sends you smart reminders to help you make payments on time. The app also has a handy expense predictor that will learn your financial behaviour and predict if any upcoming bills may push you into your overdraft.

Portify also offers a Lite and a Plus membership, based on flat monthly fees of just £5 or £9 and with no hard credit checks. These memberships could improve your credit score with the big credit agencies – Experian at the Lite level, plus TransUnion (Credit Karma) and Equifax (ClearScore) at the Plus level – and users typically start to see improvements after around three to four months. Building a good credit score takes time and consistency and you need a while to build up a positive payment history.

Portify is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, and the app currently has an ‘excellent’ rating on Trustpilot, based on 752 reviews. Users should maintain good financial behaviour when using the app to get the best results. Results may vary, visit Portify.co for more information!

Improve credit score Portify

4. Keep your credit utilisation rate low

Credit utilisation rate basically means how much of your available credit you’re using, and is another significant factor in how credit scores are calculated – a low credit utilisation rate is better than a higher one.

For example, if you have a credit limit of £1,000 on a credit card but a balance of £100, your credit utilisation rate is only 10%. You can improve your credit score therefore by avoiding maxing out on credit cards and paying balances off in full every month if possible. By doing this you’re effectively showing credit agencies that just because you have access to credit, you’re not rushing out and spending, you’re using that credit line responsibly.

Improving your credit score is a long game and it does take patience and determination, but it’s absolutely possible. Taking back control of your finances is such an empowering experience too, and getting to a place of financial freedom and security is wonderful.

So what are you waiting for? Take your head out of the sand, start taking positive steps to improve your credit score and you’ll be solving mysteries in your campervan in no time.

vintage vw camper

*Everyone knows that all you need to become a writer is a desk right? Like I said, not a great deal of thought…

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I was listening to a podcast a few weeks ago, I can’t remember what it was or who was talking, but there was a bit in it that really stuck with me. They were talking about boundaries, and how we go about creating them for ourselves, and the guest posed a question:

What time do you really want to go to bed?

She explained that bedtimes are a great starting point for thinking about boundaries, because we rarely go to bed at the time we want to. I thought about it a lot and it feels so true to me.

Consider the question for a minute. If you lived alone, felt no judgement when you were out in the evenings, just listened to your body and prioritised yourself – if you were basically a cat – what time would you go to bed? How different is that from when you actually go to bed?

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Joey is two years old tomorrow.

Can you believe it? Two whole years since I became a Granny. Children warp time don’t they? On the one hand you have no idea where the time has gone, but also you can’t remember life without them. Individual days as a new parent feel about a week long, and then suddenly they’re off to school.

Cozy Mum and Me wrap review

Joey enjoying his first ever round of crazy golf

I remember when Joey was small, teaching him to press the buttons in his favourite book, the one that made the animal noises, his chubby finger doing its best to press the right bit. Then learning about his cement mixer toy, and how to put the balls in the top and open the door at the back to have them pop out again. In my mind that’s Joey, opening the little cement truck door over and over, concentrating hard.

And now he’s one day away from being two.

Although he’s a little more dexterous than he once was he still has the chubby fingers, pressing buttons, learning how things work. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Rellery

What have been the small changes that you’ve noticed about yourself during the pandemic? I’m not talking the obvious stuff, like missing your friends and family, (or not), or accidentally starting an interior design degree and just doing one module, but the little things – the stuff that’s surprised you.

I surprised myself with how much I’ve enjoyed spending time alone, like REALLY enjoyed it. I’ve explored so many new places, been on so many walks, and I never get bored. It’s wonderful being able to go at your own pace and stop for ice creams as many times as you want. (If you like cute outings then go and check out my Instagram highlights, where I save my favourites.) As a teenager I always loved it when the whole family went out for the day and I was allowed to stay at home by myself, reorganising my bedroom and listening to recordings of the top 40. I’ve always known I didn’t mind spending time alone, but being a parent for the last 25 years hasn’t lent itself to solitude. Now though I’ve remembered how much I love it.

I’ve been surprised too by the things I’ve held on to and the things I’ve let go of. I haven’t plucked my eyebrows in over a year for example – it turns out I just don’t care about that – but I have continued to wear perfume. I wear the same perfume as my Gran – Chanel No 5 – and the smell of it every morning always reminds me of her. It feels significant, a reminder of my roots maybe.

On the flipside, I’ve hardly worn any jewellery and the dress side of my wardrobe has barely been opened. On the one hand I’ve enjoyed thinking less about what I wear, but I have missed the excuse to get a little bit more dressed up. It was why I was really quite excited when Rellery got in touch to see if I wanted to try a few pieces from their collection.

Rellery has a wide range of earrings, rings, necklaces, bracelets and anklets to choose from, and there are collections across different pieces if you like your jewellery to co-ordinate. The quality of their jewellery is fantastic – they only use precious metals, (sterling silver, 18K gold over sterling silver, and 14K solid gold), plus their chains are designed with tighter links to withstand up to 6lb of force. They also offer personalisation on a lot of their pieces, so you can make them extra special.

I used the excuse of a trip to the seaside to visit some friends last weekend to show off a couple of my new pieces.

First up I chose one of their 18K gold over sterling silver anklets. I haven’t owned an anklet in years but I am so happy with it – there is just something about an anklet isn’t there that makes you feel kind of young and free, like you should be strolling barefoot along an empty beach or dancing at a festival?

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In collaboration with Hotels.com, but all views are my own.

Cornwall hotels

What are your holiday plans for 2021? With international travel still complicated and expensive, chances are you’re staying in the UK this year. We certainly won’t be doing anything exotic. No American road trips or cruising the Caribbean for us. We have already had a fabulous few days in Pembrokeshire in May, and we have some time mid-July set aside for a weekend in a hired motorhome, but aside from that we will be keeping things pretty relaxed. Partly this is also because we’re planning on getting a dog this year – puppy training and settling in is going to be taking precedent in 2021.

One thing I would really like to do though, before our lives are taken over by pets, is to take a trip down to Cornwall to see my Dad and family there. We were lucky enough to see each other in January last year, before everything went pear shaped, but that’s still nearly a year and a half ago now – an awfully long time to not see people.

We live in Somerset, so we can just about get to Cornwall in a (very long) day, but we much prefer to make a mini break out of it and find a hotel in Cornwall for a night or two. Let’s be honest, we’ll make a mini break out of literally anything given half the chance. I bloody love a mini break.

Catching up with family is the perfect excuse for a bit of time away though, whether that’s a hotel, camping or airbeds on the floor. They say a change is as good as a rest after all don’t they? (Although I’m not convinced an airbed ever counts as a rest.)

It’s lovely just have a change of scene, to see the sea, to eat in new places – simple pleasures like fish and chips on the beach can be so joyous when we really appreciate them. We’ve all been stuck in our own homes for so long now, any opportunity to regain that sense of freedom, to gain a different perspective, has to be a good thing.

If you have family that you haven’t seen for a while then I really hope you get to see them this summer. Fingers crossed for some summer sunshine too.

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This post is a review of the Vax Platinum SmartWash Carpet Cleaner. I was sent this Vax carpet cleaner for the purposes of this review. All views are my own.

I have a large peace lily in my bedroom that is over 20 years old. It stands, rather inconveniently, in front of one set of wardrobe doors, but its positioning is strategic. For at least three years it has been covering up a rather bright yellow stain on my carpet.

I couldn’t tell you where the stain came from – a neon cat vomit incident perhaps? – but one day there it was. My chosen method with most things I don’t want to deal with is just to pretend they’re not there, (see the satsuma on the car dashboard incident), and so the plant found its home.

Now you’d THINK that as a professional, seasoned blogger type, the first thing I’d have done before I tested out our new Vax Platinum SmartWash Carpet Cleaner would have been to take a photo of the stain for a before and after comparison. Here I have a bit of a confession to make though. I was upstairs with the Vax, my phone was downstairs, and I thought to myself ‘ah well, it probably doesn’t matter because the Vax isn’t going to get rid of it after all these years is it?’

*GASP*

I know, I’m sorry Vax, but I admit it, I was cynical. I’ve never owned a carpet cleaner before, (I’ve never cleaned my carpets the whole time I’ve lived here), and I always assumed carpet cleaners were one of those hyped up things that people bought and used once and then stuck in the garage, like foot spas.

If you’d have asked me a couple of weeks ago ‘do Vax carpet cleaners really work?’ I would have probably scrunched my face up cynically and said ‘Ha! I doubt it!’

If I’d even just had a look at the Vax Platinum SmartWash Carpet Cleaner on the website I’d have seen that it has won awards, kills over 99% of bacteria and has been shown to outperform the leading rental cleaners, but oh no, I thought I knew best.

HOW WRONG I WAS.

I gave the stain a couple of goes with the Vax and POOF. ‘Well this is awkward,’ I thought to myself, ‘I really wish I’d taken that photo…’ View Post

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Okay, I’m going to jump right in and say it, even if it makes me look stupid… PUFFINS – who knew they were so small??

I’d never seen a puffin in real life until we stayed at Point Farm for a few days and took a boat out to Skomer Island, but seriously, in all the pictures I’ve ever seen they look about the size of a penguin? All I can say is that those pictures must be VERY close up, because puffins are actually more like pigeons. Pigeons with big heads and colourful beaks, but pigeons nonetheless.

Also, they live UNDERGROUND?? In actual burrows.

Honestly, my mind was blown. I felt like a right idiot having spent 43 years imagining these penguin type birds, nesting on rocks and beaches, when all the time there they were, using their tiny beaks to burrow underground.

Spoiler: this is not an accurate representation of a puffin:

Skomer Island

If you do want the chance to see puffins in real life, which I absolutely recommend, then Point Farm on the Pembrokeshire coast is the ideal base for a holiday as it’s just a 15 minute drive from the campsite to catch the boat over the Skomer Island.

It’s also a really lovely campsite, puffins aside. Point Farm is small, (just like the puffins), so perfect if you like a bit more of a quiet, intimate camping experience without a lot of noise or kerfuffle. Point Farm is an eco site, dog friendly, with great facilities and amazing sunsets. There are just six camping pitches, plus two fully equipped shepherd’s huts if glamping is more your thing.

Glamping is definitely more my thing – I will quite happily go to my grave never putting up another tent – and so we stayed in the very cosy Tawny shepherd’s hut. View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Feel

I peed in a glass jam jar this morning and took a test. The test was to look for high levels of follicle-stimulating hormone, which gets high when oestrogen levels are low. Oestrogen levels drop when you’re heading into menopause. The test was positive.

It was a bit of an odd moment for me to be honest, because on the one hand the test looked very much like a pregnancy test, but then it represents basically the opposite. It inevitably got me thinking about the day, 26 years ago, when I did do a pregnancy test for the first time, and everything that has come since. It could also explain the ongoing midlife unravelling.

It couldn’t have been better timed if I’d planned it for a smooth introduction to a post about reflections on pregnancy and early parenthood, in partnership with Feel. Feel makes supplements with a difference – clean, high quality nutrition tailored to particular life phases or areas of your health that you’d like to target, like digestion or cognitive function. They also produce a pregnancy formula, built to assist fertility, foetal development, help to reduce nausea and contribute to your overall health and energy levels.

Feel is a subscription, with free delivery to your door and plastic free packaging. There’s no contract and you can cancel any time, plus at the moment they have an amazing FREE trial offer of Feel Pregnancy, meaning you can get one whole month for nothing.

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Advertisement feature in association with Glamify

If you could sum up the pandemic in one word, what would it be?

Maybe you’d chose something serious like ‘tragedy’ or ‘loneliness’ – both very valid – or maybe for you it’s ‘banana bread‘ or ‘Netflix’.

For us it’s ‘loungewear’.

I haven’t been keeping a spreadsheet exactly, but I reckon a good 43% of our time since March last year has been spent in loungewear, and a significant proportion of that has additionally been under a blanket. Right at the end of December, when we knew we’d be going into a new lockdown the next day, we spent the afternoon on an emergency shopping trip, stocking up on coordinating pyjamas and matching silky blankets. (Belle has pink and I have cream, which is honestly a disaster waiting to happen every time I eat dinner on my lap.)

When Glamify asked if we’d be up for a bit of twinning then in the loungewear department, well, I can’t think of anything we’d be better suited for.

loungewear for mums and kids

Belle will only let me use pictures where she’s completely happy with her face, so obviously then I always look weird because we can’t co-ordinate both looking normal at the same time.

Let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to live in comfy, stretchy loungewear all of the time if they could? I’m no economist, (apart from the economics degree), but I’m going to guess that sales of anything with an elasticated waist have soared over the last 14 months, and I reckon it will be a while before we want (or are able) to squeeze ourselves back into jeans or suits every day.

And why would you when you could stay home in your loungewear playing with your cats? View Post

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