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Hands up who’s bored of staying at home pretending that they’re living their best life making sourdough and enjoying the slower pace of life?

*waves hand wildly*

It’s getting kind of tedious isn’t it? I know, saving lives and all that, I’m not about to start an illegal rave, but I do miss full contact brunch. Still, it has to be done, and probably for a while yet, so in the meantime I’ve pulled together a load of things to do online that are fun and free. It’s not like the post I wrote the other day suggesting you learn a language or get a skip bag or anything, these are all purely for time wasting or purely joyous purposes.

PLUS…

Read to the end of this post, or skip there now if you’re really that fed up, and there’s the chance to win a £50 Amazon voucher! (I nearly included ‘evaluate your Amazon wish list’ as one of the items, but I assume that was the first thing EVERYONE did? It’s certainly something I’ve spent a lot of time on.)

Play board games online with friends

We’ve had a bash at playing some games with family via Zoom, but it can be a bit fiddly if you’re all trying to keep track of your own Monopoly board. Instead, try something like Tabletopia for board games that you can play virtually.

Go to the theatre

National Theatre is showing a full length play every week during lockdown via YouTube, and they’ve had some absolutely cracking stuff on so far. This week it’s Gillian Anderson in A Streetcar Named Desire. Now’s your chance to get all fancy and cultured – no one needs to know you saw them at home in your pyjamas.

Enter some competitions

Totally free and who knows, you could end up with a new car or even a year’s supply of Weetabix! The thrill of winning a competition is rarely proportionate to the prize in my experience – having the winning ticket in the village fete raffle is an absolute buzz, even if you do just win an Old Spice gift set.

If you’re not normally a comper, check out Competition Finder as a great starting place for finding and entering competitions.

Learn how to take a dramatic portrait shot of your pet

Dramatic pet portrait photography is just one of the many, many online courses available at Skill Share, amongst other treats such as ‘how to create the ultimate donut flat lay.’ Skill Share is a paid service, offering easy to follow lessons in all kinds of creative subjects, but there’s a decent free trial if you just fancy giving one or two things a go.

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I’m still going through massive emotional lockdown ups and downs. Occasionally I do something really annoyingly motivated, like when I signed up recently to start that interior design degree*, but most of the time, as you can see from the frequency of my blog posts, I’m just sort of semi-reclined, reading Poirot books and eating bags of Maryland mini cookies.

(Only 99 calories a bag you know. What do you mean ‘but you ate four bags’? How rude.)

If you DO want something to do during lockdown though, then I’ve pulled together a few ideas for you based on what it feels like a solid half of Instagram is doing right now. (Which probably means no one is actually doing it in real life.)

These are JUST IDEAS though. It’s totally okay if you prefer the Poirot/cookie scenario, or just want to kick back with a puzzle. No one is judging you. It’s a weird time for sure.

Take the couch to 5k challenge

I’m delighted to report that so far no one has tagged me in anything suggesting I run 5k for the NHS. Either these means I have no friends, or that all of my friends know me better than to suggest I run ANYWHERE. Even regular readers should know that running is definitely not my thing, as evidenced here by my own couch to 5k photo collage.

I know everyone says that after a while you start to get a buzz from running, but after completing the whole programme and I can say with absolutely certainty that at no point did I enjoy it at all in any way. The entire time I was ‘running’ my internal monologue was basically ‘this is hell, make it stop, why are you doing this, it’s awful, surely I’ve been going for 20 minutes by now, let’s check the app because surely it should have beeped by now and maybe it’s broken, oh no it’s only been four minutes, this is awful, please save me, help.’

But sure, have a go if that’s your thing. View Post

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I’ve got Jon from The Money Shed here again today blabbering on about Bonus Accumulator. I honestly don’t know what he talks about most of the time but I know a lot of people find his articles on matched betting and earning money online really useful, plus he’s stuck at home without his usual time out with a bottomless coffee in Wetherspoons, feeling sorry for himself, so here he is.

If youve been working from home or earning on the side for a while, then youve probably heard of matched betting. If not, matched betting is a risk-free strategy that allows you to turn bookmaker bonuses into withdrawable cash.

Matched betting has been around for years but received mainstream attention when Sam Stoffel released a membership-based service called Profit Accumulator. For a small monthly subscription fee, users were able to log in and be told exactly what bookmaker bonuses were available at any given time and given a step-by-step guide to guaranteeing a profit from them.

Profit Accumulator is still going strong but what theyre best known for is making the whole process easy for anyone to take part in.

The exciting news for long-term matched bettors and newcomers looking to make money online from home is that Sam Stoffel is back with a new product called Bonus Accumulator thats sure to keep the profit rolling in on a monthly basis.

What is Bonus Accumulator?

Bonus Accumulator is different to Profit Accumulator because it focuses on casino and bingo promotions as opposed to sports betting. View Post

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I’ve been immensely grateful for my garden over the last couple of months. I know that I’m incredibly lucky during this very weird time to have a private outside space that I can escape to, where I can enjoy the sunshine and just feel like I have a little bit of freedom.

Often when I go and sit outside a cat or three will come with me and sit nearby. Not too close mind, just close enough for them to know I’m there. It’s a lovely feeling just sitting there, listening to the sounds from other gardens and watching the plants emerging from their winter hibernation.

One of the things I love most about the garden is the colour. Even in the winter I like to see colour in the garden, and I’ve done this in mine in a few simple ways, like painting my pergola a lovely pink colour, and having lot of colourful plant pots. I’m a fan of colour inside the home already, and outdoors there’s really no reason to hold back is there?

To give us some ideas for ways to introduce colour into the garden I thought I’d start by putting together a Pinterest board. From that I’ve pulled out a few ideas that I think would be easy to recreate in any garden. Most of these are easy to do, but if you find yourself needing some help then don’t be afraid to look for it – taking out trees for example is something better tackled with the help of someone like https://www.thelocaltreeexperts.com/.

First up then, the inspiration…

 

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untold stories slummy single mummy

Today’s anonymous contribution to my Untold Stories series is an incredibly brave and incredibly sad story about a woman trying to live with Generalised Anxiety Disorder through lockdown, and how that is impacting on her relationship with her husband and her children. I’ve noticed over the last couple of weeks that people are talking more and more about the impact of the coronavirus on mental health and I’m sure today’s storyteller can’t be alone in finding herself struggling to cope with this new way of living. If you have any words of comfort or reassurance, or are experiencing any similar, please do leave a comment, I know it would be hugely appreciated. If you have your own story you’d like to share, please get in touch.

By Anon.

I am THAT person

This pandemic. This coronavirus. This new way of existing. It’s terrifying, it’s depressing, it’s beyond our control.

I’m pretty sure mine is not the only household that’s reeling under the pressure cooker atmosphere of lockdown. Many are struggling to contain their kids or not particularly enjoying their partners working from home. It’s absolutely not a way of life that any of us are used to, nor do many of us like it.

But I wonder how many people have discovered that they themselves are actually impossible to live with. This is a sickening realisation that I’ve had to come to terms with. I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD). To explain: this does not mean I “worry”. It means that I spend my entire day in “fight or flight” mode. It’s a constant, exhausting, terrible fear. It’s a permanent attempt at holding it together, pushing down the urge to shriek with panic, persistently trying not to cry. It’s constantly seeking reassurance, constantly asking questions. It’s trusting no one. It’s catastrophising every single thing, until the world seems to be a terrible place not worth living in. It’s such a burdensome load to carry, that it seeps into my veins and poisons my blood with a depression that never lifts. View Post

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I have a confession to make.

After ranting earlier in the month about Gwyneth Paltrow and her insistence that lockdown was the perfect time to learn a musical instrument or build a house out of buckwheat or whatever it is she was bleating on about, I’ve taken the time, between staring out of the window and reading Poirot books, to start a new career.

I know, I know, I’m sorry, I’m letting the side down, but I promise that for 87% of the time at least I’m being unproductive in the extreme. This week for example my main achievement has been to take all of my books of their various shelves throughout the house to ‘sort them out’, at which point I lost interest, leaving piles of floor books everywhere.

It turns out though that I work best under some kind of financial pressure, as I proved back in 2009 when I panic-started my blog. In that spirit, with blog projects distinctly thin on the ground and my (previous) income disqualifying me from any government help for freelancers, I decided to blow part of my savings on the first year of an interior design degree.

What can go wrong?

Interior design ideas

Just a matter of time now before every side table in my house looks like this.

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Hands up if you’ve been spending an unusual amount of time in the garden lately?

*Raises hand*

I know that I’m lucky, that not everyone has the luxury of a garden, but if you do have one, or even just space for a few window boxes, then you might be interested in this competition that I’m hosting on behalf of Sudocrem to win one of three family gardening sets.

Gardening competition for kids

That’s not the whole kit, don’t worry.

With schools closed for the foreseeable, millions of parents all over the UK are looking for new ways to keep children busy and so Sudocrem has launched their new Back to the Garden campaign, an initiative to get families back into planting and growing, wherever they are. Encouraging your children to plant seeds and take an interest in growing can give them a long-term project to focus on, away from the computer. And the good news is, you don’t need a garden to get involved: creating a window box full of edible herbs can be just as inspiring as digging a vegetable patch.

I’ve thought about Sudocrem quite a bit on and off since I had my ridiculously naive realisation about them last year. Please tell me I wasn’t the only one who didn’t realise this? It’s listed in the ingredients AND there is lavender coloured lettering, so I feel quite stupid, but I’d always just thought the smell was ‘Sudocrem’. View Post

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easy apple cake recipe

Up your pandemic baking game with this easy apple cake recipe

What is it about a global pandemic that means everyone rushes to make banana bread? I keep seeing memes about it on social media and I’m just as guilty of it, although in my defence I make a lot of banana bread virus or no virus, just because I buy bananas with good intentions but have never quite learned the habit of choosing fruit over Wotsits.

Overripe bananas are my nemesis.

I posted my never fail banana bread recipe only a few months ago in fact, before we were all confined to barracks. Good timing probably for all the frantic banana bread recipe Googling.

I thought I’d push myself outside of my pandemic comfort zone this weekend though, and have a go instead at an apple cake. I know right? SHOCK HORROR, talk about living life on the edge, it doesn’t get much more daring than this does it? This apple cake recipe comes from a book called Botanical Baking, which is full of beautiful recipes using edible flowers. It’s very Millenial Instagram user.

I’m confined to the house at the moment – halfway through 14 days of self-isolation – so I can’t exactly go foraging for edible flowers, but we do have a small apple tree in our garden, which grew from a pip that Belle planted when she was about two years old, so I thought I’d try my hand at the apple blossom cake.

apple blossom cake recipe

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On my bedroom wall, right opposite my bed, I have a big picture of the Amalfi Coast. It’s full of these amazing azure blues and warm pink tones and I absolutely love it. I’ve never been to Italy before, unless you count landing in Turin airport and driving straight to the French Alps, which frankly I don’t, but I dream of a romantic road trip along the Italian coast.

Who wouldn’t if they were waking up to this picture every day?

Amalfi coast print

I think there’s also a part of me that wants to go with either Steve Coogan or Rob Brydon, sampling the best restaurants along the way and listening to their impressions as I sip my Chianti and gaze at the sea.

At the moment, when I’m not even allowed to leave the house, it feels like a bit of a tease, but then I think it’s important to have things to look forward to isn’t it? I mean sure, work has nose dived and I won’t be able to afford an Italian road trip even when I am allowed on the roads, but then I’m sure I read somewhere once that people get as much enjoyment from planning a holiday as from actually going on one, so I’m going to go with that.

I never thought I would actually miss driving, but I definitely have over the last few weeks – I’ve missed that feeling of being able to go anywhere you want, watching the world whizz by. To help me get excited about my fantasy road trip, Sandown Mercedes asked me to stare longingly at pictures on Pinterest for hours and hours* and compile a list of my dream Italian road trip destinations.

(*Okay so they didn’t use these words exactly, but I took it as implied.) View Post

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During the last couple of weeks, while I’ve swung between a melancholic questioning of the meaning of life, looking nervously each way before getting out of the car at Tesco incase there are zombies lurking in the trolley park and, at my best, feeling a mild sense of calm as I sit quietly in a chair reading murder mysteries, there is one thing in which I have found solace – the words of Gwyneth Paltrow.

Ha!

Have I buggery.

The woman is an absolute nightmare. Not content with trying to have us all believe that what we definitely need in our bathroom cabinets is some of her psychic vampire repellent protection mist or pubic hair fur oil, (both actual things), now she’s offering up her wisdom when it comes to dealing with coronavirus and social isolation. According to Gwyneth we’re just looking at this whole global pandemic all wrong. Rather than worrying about the potential deaths of millions of the people, the pressure on the NHS, the safety of our loved ones, or generally our own sanity, we should be seeing this time as an opportunity.

Of course! An opportunity! Why didn’t I see that? Perhaps it was hidden behind the mass grief, who knows.

Gwyneth reckons we should be using our time to ‘write a book, learn an instrument or a language or learn to code online, draw or paint.’

Okay, fine, I get that it’s a good thing if you can perhaps distract yourself a little from the myriad unknowns and crippling loneliness, but personally I’m finding that the easiest way to do this right now is by listening to old episodes of Just a Minute at a discreet volume, whilst eating Wotsits and staring out of the window. I’m working up to a jigsaw, but I’m not quite there yet.

This may change of course, I’m sure I’ll adjust to living under lockdown, but right now if I felt like I was expected to casually pick up a French horn for an hour or so every day then it might just to me over the edge.

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The last couple of weeks have been really bloody weird, and they’re only set to get weirder both societally and in my head. Today for instance, I thought about cleaning out the U-bend under my kitchen sink, as it’s been smelly for weeks, (and by weeks I mean years), but then I decided I was going to save it as a treat, so I didn’t use all the activities up all at once.

A treat! Honestly, I worry about myself sometimes.

I am doing other things to keep myself busy at home though, things that actually feel relaxing, like catching up on reading and getting through my backlog of interiors magazines. I do find interiors a really lovely escapism, so when FURCO got in touch this week to see if I fancied writing a piece about modern interiors, I thought it might be a nice distraction. FURCO is an online furniture superstore that’s a one stop shop for everything for the home – beds, sofas, dining, the lot. Have a browse of their full collection at https://www.furco.co.uk/.

For anyone else who fancies escaping from the world for a bit via the medium of coral pink velvet sofas, I thought I’d share some of my interiors related Pinterest boards. In fact ‘organise Pinterest boards’ should probably go on my list of activity ideas, for once I’ve indulged myself in the joy that is the U-bend.

Living coral interiors

Okay, so living coral was the Pantone colour of the year last year, but it’s one of my favourites and I think it’s so beautiful in a home, either on the walls or in the soft furnishings. You’ll notice this board features more than one coral pink squishy velvet sofa. The DREAM sofa.

Vibrant living rooms

My house surprises me sometimes. My walls are all fairly neutral and I’ve done very little painting since I moved in – just the chimney breast in the living room and one wall of my bedroom, which I painted a dark teal. It surprises me because whenever I cut things out of magazines that I like, or make Pinterest boards for living spaces, they are always about colour and patterns and textures. Oh and lots of velvet sofas. I honestly don’t know why I’ve never just bought a velvet sofa.

Conservatory goals

Before coronavirus, back when I had a decent regular income and could picture the future, I thought a lot about a conservatory. My neighbour has one on the back of their house and I’m kind of envious about all the extra space it gives them. I would love to have a room with doors that opened out onto the garden and space to properly go to town on my plant obsession, and that’s what this Pinterest board is all about.

If you could design your dream interior, or pick that one piece of furniture you’ve also wanted in your home, what would it look like? Leave a comment and let me know!

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My mum told me yesterday that she doesn’t think I know how to worry properly.

It was because I’d been telling her that one of my main worries about the coronavirus was zombies. Zombies or perhaps man-eating plants. ‘I don’t care how much toilet paper I have,’ I said, ‘the most stressful thing about going to the supermarket is getting out of the car and expecting to see the undead shuffle out of the trolley park.’

‘I absolutely promise you,’ she said, ‘that there will not be any zombies.’

‘That’s exactly what they say at this point in the books,’ I pointed out, in what felt like a completely reasonable way, ‘but then the virus mutates and suddenly your shrubs are trying to eat you in the night.’

‘I think perhaps that you’re not used to worrying,’ said my mum, ‘and that you’re not sure how to process it. I don’t think it’s really about zombies.’

She might be right.

Whereas my sister, in her own words, has been ‘prepping for this moment her whole life’, emotionally at least, (although they do also always have more than a normal amount of pasta at home), I have not. Anxiety has historically not been my ‘thing’ and I prefer to waft through life unconcerned by external events or health concerns. Over the last year or so though, maybe age, maybe the midlife unravelling, I’d already started to notice odd niggles about things taking root – a needless trip to the optician because my eyes ‘don’t feel right’ here, a cry over the pointlessness of life there. I’ve felt slightly off my game for a while and coronavirus feels like it could be the thing that tips me over the edge.

25 years of reading dystopian fiction has left me with an ingrained fear of things like viruses, over which we appear to have so little control. It feels scary to me because it’s unpredictable, it could be anywhere and because we don’t know how to kill it.

Just like zombies. View Post

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